Norwegian runner Jakob Ingebrigtsen resorted once again to complaints and what some sports commentators viewed as arrogance this week, even after winning his fourth European Championship in Munich Thursday night. The 21-year-old from a family of athletes also set a new record in the 1500-meter final, but complained that a rival prevented him from doing even better and that one of Norway’s leading sports commentators “sounds like an idiot.”
Ingebrigtsen had first made waves earlier this week after winning gold in the 5000-meter final and then walking right by the press corps without stopping to answer any questions. He spoke only with Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) and a few international TV stations before heading for the medals ceremony and some post-race jogging.
That prompted even NRK commentator Jan Petter Saltvedt to brand Ingebrigtsen’s behaviour as “arrogant,” arguing that speaking with the press is “part of the job” after winning a gold medal. Leif Welhaven, sports commentator for newspaper VG, also claimed that Ingebrigtsen needs to answer questions and that Ingebrigtsen’s characterization of a commentator as an idiot “doesn’t belong” in a professional exchange.
Ingebrigtsen’s older brother Henrik, also an medal-winning runner, defended Jakob by claiming that he simply won’t compromise, must be himself “and deliver what it takes to be the best possible. Henrik also told NRK that because of a tight sechedule at the European Championships, Jakob needed to immediately start concentrating on the 1500-meter race after winning the 5000-meter, and couldn’t spend any energy on talking with reporters.
He did speak more Thursday night, after his events were over, but wasn’t satisfied like he was at the World Championships in Oregon last month. He claimed that he could have run even faster if rival Mario Garcia of Spain (who won bronze) hadn’t been tailing him “all the the time so that I couldn’t go as hard as I wanted in the middle.” After breaking away from the pack, Ingebrigtsen led by a wide margin and beat Garcia by more than two seconds. Heywood Jake of Great Britain won silver, a minute and 68 seconds behind Ingebrigtsen.
Garcia took it in stride, saying he’d wanted to be as close to Ingebrigtsen as possible in order to try and get ahead of him during the last hundred meters, “but he’s clearly at another level right now.” Garcia congratulated Ingebrigtsen, widely believed to in excellent shape, and conceded that his younger rival ran a final round that no one else could match.