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Ingebrigtsen: 'We all set the bar – and it keeps on going higher and higher'

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As last Saturday produced a second victory for Team Ingebrigtsen, with 18-year-old Jakob coasting clear over 1500m in the European Athletics Team Championships First League event at their home track in Sandnes, his 26-year-old sibling Filip, who had earlier won the 5000m, let out a roar and shook his first in triumph before turning back to his post-race interviews.

Having underlined their status as local heroes at the rainswept arena just a few hundred metres from their family home, the two brothers – and their elder brother Henrik who took second place in the 3000m the following day – are now targeting a route to the IAAF World Championships in Doha, where they will seek to supplement their extravagant collection of European medals with global versions.

Henrik, 28, brought the family name to renown in winning the 2012 European 1500m, a title that was taken up by Filip in 2016, before residing with Jakob, now 18, who won an extraordinary 1500/5000m double at last summer’s European Athletics Championships in Berlin and added European indoor gold at 3000m and silver at 1500m in Glasgow earlier this year.

Under the steely sway of their father and coach, Gjert, these three have arrived at the point where new records and successes are expected every time they set foot on the track.

The IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris on 24 August and the Brussels Diamond League final on 6 September will form the two big footsteps towards Doha – with an unusual assignment after the season ends.

The three brothers will be among those rotationally pacing the Olympic marathon champion and world record-holder Eliud Kipchoge as he seeks to become the first runner to cover the distance in under two hours over 4.5 laps on the flat stretch of The Prater in Vienna in the self-styled INEOS 1:59 Challenge.

'This won't be a competition for us — we shall just be assistants,” Filip told NRK broadcaster on Tuesday. But as he made clear before and after winning maximum points for Norway with a 5000m win in 13:37.09, the main preoccupation this year is the pursuit of fully ratified global medals.

Filip, who already has a world 1500m bronze from the last IAAF World Championships in London two years ago, felt his familiar outing had been of significant help to him in terms of his main ambition. “It was really cool racing on my home track,” Filip said. “It happens not that often. The audience was fantastic and gave me a real boost. Before the race I was actually a bit nervous.

“I did a controlled race and increased my pace in the later laps. It was a good experience for me with the World Championships coming up in six weeks’ time. My preparations for Doha are going well – I am on a good level right now.

“I haven’t really done that many 5ks, so I need more experience in that field. The 5000m is long and is a mental test. You have to struggle all the time.

“This gave me some more experience at the distance. It was a typical championship race, slow and steady in the first half. I just wanted to have some tactics and see how it felt. Jakob and I are thinking of doing a double in Doha - the 1500m and 5000m.

“I said to my father in London two years ago that I really wanted to double at the next World Championships, so we have been discussing that. Jakob did 13:02 in the London Diamond League, and then he started to want to do the double as well.

“Although we would prefer the 1500m coming before the 5k – in Doha it is the other way round. That makes it a little more difficult to figure out. It’s going to be difficult, but I think we want to do it.”

While Jakob hit the jackpot with the double in Berlin last summer, Filip – who was briefly family 5000m record holder after running 13:11.75 in Rome – has history to amend in that regard.

Attempting the same double as his younger brother, he reached the 1500m final despite taking a heavy fall in the heat, and his subsequent performance was mitigated by what was discovered to be a broken rib. Filip was unable to take part in the 5000m, where Jakob won his second gold and Henrik took silver.

As well as running 13:02.03, Jakob has set a European U20 record of 3:30.16 for the 1500m. But Filip is still Norwegian record holder thanks to his time of 3:30.01 in Monaco last year.

“We all help each other,” he said. “We all set the bar – and it keeps on going higher and higher. I was the family record-holder for the 5000m with 13:11, but now Jakob has run 13:02.”

So when is he going to get the record back? “Maybe next year,” he replies with a grin.

“I am going to beat Jakob for as long as I can. I think when he is older he will not find it so much fun training and travelling on his own. It helps a lot when there are three of you.

“Jakob and I looked up to Henrik very much when we were younger. It was like he invented Norwegian track running. Jakob was only 11 when Henrik won the European 1500m title in Helsinki.

“We have all his training sessions, from the earliest days. So we knew that if we could do better than those sessions, we could beat him. But Henrik is also getting faster!”

It’s a heady dynamic – but it has not worked for all of the Ingebrigtsen clan – Kristoffer, the eldest, and Martin have not pursued the same course.

“Kristoffer has a lot of talent,” Filip said. “But in the end, he didn’t want to do athletics. You have to enjoy not just the competition, but the work you have to do every day to prepare for it. If that enjoyment is not there, it doesn’t work.”

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