Jakob Ingebrigtsen, who last year became the youngest male European champion in taking 1500m and 5000m gold, completed the first part of a matching indoor double here with another preternaturally calm and commanding victory in the 3000m at the Glasgow 2019 European Athletics Indoor Championships.
The 18-year-old thus won Norway’s first ever gold medal at the European Athletics Indoor Championships. And given the manner of his victory, few would bet against him falling short of a double-double with the 1500m final to come in tomorrow’s last day of competition.
Inside half-an-hour, Norway’s European indoor gold medal total, which had stood at zero for 50 years, had doubled thanks to a 400m victory by world and European 400m hurdles champion Karsten Warholm in 45.05 – equalling Thomas Schonlebe’s European indoor record from 1988.
Shortly before these championships began, the ebullient Warholm had released announced on social media that he had changed his mind about staying away from Glasgow – accompanying the news with a picture appearing to show him holding his coach at gunpoint and tied up in a chair.
The means of expression was inimitable. The decision proved sound. With his main rival, Spain’s Oscar Husillos, in his sights – one place outside him in lane six, Warholm set off at his habitual ferocious pace, taking a clear lead as the lanes broke – a lead he never looked likely to lose.
Ingebrigtsen, aided and abetted by his eldest brother Henrik, European 1500m champion in 2012, had taken his habitual control of the race from the early stages and moved smoothly away from all challengers – with his elder brother watching his back - to cross the line, one forefinger raised, in a time of 7:56.15, covering the last 1500m in 3:45.05. It was calmness and confidence personified. "He was born with a runner's head," commented his coach and father Gjert, reflecting on Jakob's third senior European title.
— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) March 2, 2019
Behind him, however, a desperate struggle took place for silver as Scotland’s own Chris O’Hare - who had been the only athlete to stay in touch with the Brothers Ingebrigtsen as they charged for home over the final lap - moved up to challenge, and then passed, the moustachioed figure of Henrik.
It seemed O’Hare had done just enough. But in the final stride Ingebrigtsen senior dived for the prize, and it took a photo-finish to discern that the home favourite, whose final charge had raised the temperature and decibel levels, had indeed taken second place. Even hundredths of a second couldn’t separate them, however, with both clocking 7:57.19. In the end it went to thousandths – 0.185 to 0.188.
“It wasn’t easy, there were a lot of elbows,” said the victor. “It was a really good competition with good athletes and I’m glad to be on the podium. Some other races started with a high pace and this wasn’t like that. I think the others had respect for us and they handed it to us so that we could make it our race. I am 16 minutes past my bedtime, but it’s an amazing day!”.
O’Hare had got a huge roar as he was introduced to the crowd, running out with the same look of determination on his face that compatriot Laura Muir had worn the previous evening as she powered away to the successful retention of her 3000m title.
“I knew there was going to be a dip,” he said. “I mistimed my last step and didn’t get a good dip in. As you saw on the screen it was dead close but that’s racing. If someone’s way out in front for ages and the medals are decided with three laps to go it’s a bit boring.”
— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) March 2, 2019
Even home support couldn’t project him past the consummate younger Ingebrigtsen, but there was much family celebration at trackside as he trotted over to celebrate his achievement.
Ingebrigtsen senior had his own arresting take on the occasion.
“I knew Chris was coming in the end and saw it on the big screen and I just thought I'm going to go for it. I just dived and I think I gained two hundredths doing that. I jumped for it. I saw him coming past me and I gave it my all. I watched a lot of the TV show MacGyver growing up so I just did the MacGyver jump.
“I think I deserve to own half of Jakob's medals. So in my mind, I won one bronze and half a gold medal! We prepared for everything but we didn’t plan anything. I felt we controlled the race from start to finish. We controlled the pace and our positions and waited for the bell to ring. The most important thing is that we won today, Team Norway won today.”
The destination of the women’s 400m title was decided by a finish as close as the battle for silver had been in the men’s 3000m, with Switzerland’s Lea Sprunger prevailing by a hundredth of a second in 51.61, with Belgium’s Cynthia Bolingo Mbongo having to settle for silver in what was her third consecutive national record in this arena.
As the athletes broke from their lanes the tall and powerful Swiss athlete thundered down the boards from the outside lane to establish a clear lead with the best part of a lap remaining.
But as the field reached the finishing straight the slighter figure of Bolingo Mbongo arrived on her right-hand side and the athletes were inseparable to the naked eye as both dipped for the line.
Bronze went to Lisanne De Witte of the Netherlands with a personal best of 52.34.