He did it the hard way, the lonely way, and, as it so long been for Jakob Ingebrigtsen, he did it his way.
With a performance as cool as it was confident, as peerless as it was professional, the Norwegian claimed his fourth European indoor title on Friday (3) with a spectacular display of front-running in the men’s 1500m which is, counting outdoors and cross country, his 10th European senior title.
Quick reminder: he’s still just 22.
The eleventh title may well come his way at Istanbul’s Atakoy Arena on Sunday night, and based off this performance it will take something outlandish to stop him from gold in the 3000m. Ingebrigtsen won this the way he wins so many races: with a relentless, suffocating pace from a long way out, running the speed out of his rival’s legs, the 5000m world champion ensuring there would be no repeat of last year’s world 1500m final, when he was outkicked by Great Britain’s Jake Wightman.
But as this race reached the business end, the Norwegian must have felt a dreaded, albeit brief, sense of deja vu.
Ingebrigtsen had swept to the lead after just 100 metres, churning through an opening 400m of 57.58, hitting 800m in 1:55.47 and 1200m in 2:52.78. Heading out on the final lap, the British vest was again likely terrorising his thoughts, with chief rival Neil Gourley stalking his every step. It couldn’t happen again, could it?
Gourley swung wide and attacked – just as Wightman had – entering the final bend. But this time Ingebrigtsen fended him off, running the inside line and digging deeper again around the last turn and holding on to win – with his finger wagging in the air – in a championship record of 3:33.95. His last lap was 27.84. Gourley was close behind in second with 3:34.23, with France’s Azeddine Habz winning bronze in 3:35.39.
“Every race has its own life, it is all about putting yourself in a good position,” said Ingebrigtsen. “Of course, I had a great fight with Gourley. I really appreciate him. I know he was preparing good for this.”
As to what fuels his relentless drive? Ingebrigtsen kept it simple. “I love to compete and to collect medals. That is what drives me and other athletes. It is not only about the winning; it’s about winning time after time. My main goal is to become the best runner that ever existed.”
Kambundji racks up another major sprint title with 60m gold
Strength may have won Ingebrigtsen his title, but for Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji, it was all about pure, indomitable speed.
The Swiss star was utterly untouchable from the moment the gun fired for the women’s 60m final, adding her first European indoor title to the world indoor crown she claimed in Belgrade last year.
She didn’t need 6.96 to win here, but the 30-year-old threatened that same illustrious barrier once again, exploding from the blocks and pulling away with every stride to hit the line and tie Nelli Cooman’s long-standing championship record, clocking 7.00. Poland’s Ewa Swoboda took silver with 7.09, while Britain’s Daryll Neita took bronze with 7.12.
“It was good – maybe not my best race ever, but it was really good and I was able to run my season’s best,” said Kambundji. “The equalled championship record is an honour for me. There have been many European Championships and now I can be even happier for this result.”
The women’s 3000m played out in similar fashion to the men’s 1500m, but this time it was not the relentless pace-setter but the big kicker who reigned supreme.
The 15-lap event essentially boiled down to a German Championships playing out on the European stage. This time, however, unlike at their national indoors a fortnight ago, the finishing order was reversed, and it was Hanna Klein who used her potent finishing speed to claim her first European title in a PB of 8:35.87 ahead of Konstanze Klosterhalfen (8:36.50).
Latvia’s Agate Caune cut out the early running, towing the field through 1000m in a steady 3:00.79. Fast enough for many, but not for Klosterhalfen, who thrives best off a faster pace.
The German knew as much, and surged to the front, clocking a 2:49.73 second kilometre, and only Klein and Great Britain’s Melissa Courtney-Bryant could live with it. Klein tracked her compatriot’s slipstream until the final lap, then powered past, her final kilometre covered in 2:45.35. Klosterhalfen hung on for silver in 8:36.50, with Courtney-Bryant taking bronze in 8:41.19.
“It was a perfect race for me, not too fast from the beginning and getting very fast at the end,” said Klein. “The way I could keep up with Klosterhalfen just made me feel stronger and stronger, because I could trust my speed at the end.”
Klosterhalfen was content, if not overjoyed, with her silver medal. “For sure first place is nicer than the second but the first and second for Germany sounds great,” she said. “The preparations to get here were a little grumpy, a lot of changes. Now, I am looking forward to prepare for next season.”
Full results here.
Cathal Dennehy for European Athletics