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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Ingebrigtsen mounts a poetic defense

The controversial Norwegian track and field coach Gjert Ingebrigtsen has responded to his indictment for family violence this week with a poem on social media. His medal-winning sons may not take kindly to his use of a song text that suggests he’ll “rise like the day … unafraid” and he’ll “do it a thousand times again.”

Gjert Ingebrigtsen long promoted media coverage of his family, which starred in several TV programs in Norway. He’s shown here participating in a media conference in 2019. PHOTO: Norske Mediedager/Wikipedia

Ingebrigtsen’s use of the Andra Day song Rise Up was apparently his way of reacting to the criminal indictment that has led to his ouster from not only the upcoming summer Olympics in Paris but also from the European Championships in Rome in June. That’s created uncertainty for the Olympic medal candidate he’s now coaching, Narve Gilje Nordås, and more conflicts with his sons loom.

Ingebrigtsen was indicted on Monday under paragraph 282 of Norway’s criminal code that applies to “mishandling in close relationships.” He’d earlier been charged with physical and psychological abuse, all directed at the same unidentified child. He’s the father of a large family, in which three of his sons have excelled in running: Henrik (now age 33), Filip (31) and Jakob Ingebrigtsen (23) have all wons medals in international championships. Both Filip and Jakob are medal candidates again this season, with Jakob keen to defend his gold medal from the last Olympics in Tokyo.

They had already rebelled against their father, who was widely known for being a demanding coach, and effectively fired him as their coach. In the fall of last year, they went public in newspaper VG with claims that sparked a police investigation. That’s what led first to charges and now an indictment for what’s described in court papers as threats, violence, limitations on a child’s freedom of movement and other forms of insults and offenses.

“A person who is indicted for mishandling in close relationships can’t be accredited with the Norwegian team taking part in the Olympics,” Tore Øvrebø, leader of Norway’s national athletics association, told news bureau NTB. He has the final say over who’s selected for the Norwegian teams, both athletes, coaches and leaders.

‘Sad case’
“Our focus is to contribute towards optimal preparations for the athletes who’ll compete at the Olympics and Paralympics,” Øvrebø added. “This is a sad case for everyone involved. It has to run its course in the court system.”

Norway’s track and field federation (Friidrettsforbund) hasn’t made any decision around Gjert Ingebrigtsen’s role as coach for Narve Gilje Nordås, who’s part of the national team and has a stipend from the federation. It doesn’t look as those Nordås will be able to have his coach with him in Paris, however, and the situation is awkward: Nordås, Jakob and Filip Ingebrigtsen are technically teammates and supposed to be cheering each other on, but because Nordås chose to stick with Jakob’s and Filip’s father, they are not on good terms.

If found guilty of the charges now against him, Gjert Ingebrigtsen could be sentenced to as long as six years in prison. Other initial charges of violence against other Ingebrigtsen children were dropped, both for lack of evidence and that the statute of limitations had expired. Mette Yvonne Larsen, lawyer for four of Ingebrigtsen’s children, told state broadcaster NRK that the dropping of at least one of the charges will be appealed.

Gjert Ingebrigtsen’s defense lawyer, John Christian Elden, told NTB that his client disagrees with the basis for the indictment but wouldn’t go into detail. “We don’t want to debate this in advance in public,” Elden told NTB. “The case is naturally a burden on all involved and we ask that the family be left in peace. We will get back to the case in court, where it belongs.”

NewsinEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

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