Jakob Ingebrigtsen has already made plenty of headlines this summer season with his exploits across a range of distances and he is set to star at the European Athletics U20 Championships in Grosseto, Italy.
The 16-year-old has provisionally entered the 1500m, 5000m and the 3000m steeplechase and he confirmed at the pre-event press conference he is fully intending to contest all three events - a feat made all the more challenging by the hot weather forecast for the entirety of the championships and the fact there is only two hours in between the 1500m and 5000m finals on Saturday evening.
“Of course but I feel really strong and I’m really confident so I’m going into this champs with an open mind and race as much as possible because that’s what I train for and obviously that’s what I like best. I’m looking for to putting on my spikes and giving it everything,” said Ingebrigtsen.
Ingebrigtsen, who is also eligible for the 2019 European U20 Championships, has set age-group records this season in the 1500m (3:39.92) and the mile (3:56.29) but his most impressive performance of the season was his 3000m steeplechase debut earlier this month. He stopped the clock at 8:26.81 to comfortably secure the qualifying time for the World Championships in London and break a European U20 record which dated all the way back to 1977.
“It’s always a surprise when you get over the finish line and you watch the time but I knew I was capable of it,” said Ingebrigtsen on that mark.
Italian hopes in Grosseto will be largely focused on the sprints as world U20 silver medallist Filippo Tortu will be looking to crown his junior career with a gold medal on home soil. Tortu leads the European U20 lists over 100m and 200m and he confirmed he is back in shape after an ankle injury.
“I feel good,” he said. “One month ago, I fell down the Spanish Steps in Rome - I was out for a pizza with friends and I fell down - but now I feel good. It’s fantastic to run in Italy. My friends and classmates arrive tomorrow along with my family and my father, who is also my coach, and my girlfriend and I just want to run fast."
Tortu is entered in both events but he will only run the 100m and 4x100m in Grosseto before contesting the 200m at the World Championships in London. In his first serious race at the distance, Tortu moved to fourth on the European U20 all-time lists with 20.34 in the Rome Diamond League and one of his targets is to break Andrew Howe’s Italian U20 record of 20.28.
“I think it’s a great result and an important record and I hope to beat it at the World Championships in London. He’s a great champion and a friend and a good person but now it’s our time,” said Tortu, smiling.
Another medal prospect for Italy is sprint hurdler Elisa Maria Di Lazzaro, who has improved the Italian U20 100m hurdles record to 13.24 - and backed up with a 13.25 clocking at the Italian U20 Championships a few weeks later.
Di Lazzaro will be looking to follow in the footsteps of training partners Ayomide Folorunso, who won the European U23 400m hurdles title last year and Desola Oki, who won the inaugural European Athletics U18 Championships in Tbilisi last summer, by claiming a medal of some colour this weekend.
And away from a flourishing career over the hurdles, Di Lazzaro is by no means shirking her studies. After achieving excellent results in her finals at high school, she is hoping to study biology in Parma.
Grosseto has been a familiar destination for athletes on the path to senior stardom with the Stadio Olimpico Carlo Zecchini hosting both the 2001 European U20 Championships and the 2004 World U20 Championships. This rich sporting tradition was acknowledged by the Mayor of Grosseto, Antonfrancesco Vivarelli Colonna.
“More than 5000 people are here to enjoy the wonderful city and are going to be very happy to see these incredible athletes - the athletes of the future. Many athletes that have passed by here have become world and Olympic champions so I invite all the city of Grosseto participate with massive enthusiasm for this fantastic and wonderful event,” he said.
President of the Italian Athletics Federation Alfio Giomi praised the local authorities for their willing cooperation and thanked European Athletics president Svein Arne Hansen for
“We are proud to organise this kind of competition. Thank you very much to Svein Arne Hansen for choosing Grosseto as the venue for the competition. Thank you very much to the mayor because without the support of the city, it would be very difficult to organise.
“We are ready for tomorrow because of the support of the city has been the best possible.”