In recent years, Jakob Ingebrigtsen has collected a small constellation of tattoos on his arms and legs. A crescent moon near his right bicep. A compass on his left forearm. A palm tree and a dog’s face above his right knee. A snake on his left thigh. Tattoos are a source of fascination for athletics fans.
Ingebrigtsen, however, rarely, if ever, spoke about it publicly.
“Everyone asks about them, but I usually don’t say anything about the meaning,” he said in an interview last month while training with his older brother Henrik in Flagstaff, South Africa. Arizona. “What’s so funny about athletics is that the normal fan is like a Ferrari fan. They’re purists. They want the sport to be like it used to be: white shirts, split shorts and a mustache.
They want everyone to look like Steve Prefontaine?
“Basically,” said Jakob Ingebrigtsen. “They don’t want to see any change: no new shoes, no lights, no new tracks.”
He continued: “Have you heard of Ferrari owners? If they modify their cars, the company removes them from their lists. Because they don’t want anything to do with modifying their cars. They have no right to buy them another car. It’s like that with athletics.
So, tattoos are a way to be rebellious?
“In a way,” he said. “It’s also a way of expressing ourselves and saying, ‘We don’t see the riders of the 80s and 90s as our heroes. We don’t want to be like them. They are fast and they have the most records. But we want to break records.”
Ingebrigtsen, 21, has always done things his way, and it was more or less the same at the world championships in Eugene, Oregon. He told people what he thought – diplomacy be damned – and did what he wanted.
On Sunday, in the 5,000 meter final, he clearly wanted to win. Wearing his Norwegian speed suit, with half the track bathed in early evening sunshine behind him, Ingebrigtsen stormed away for his first world championship, winning in 13 minutes 9.24 seconds.
“My race plan? he said before pausing to consider the question. “I just wanted to win. And I wanted to win as much as possible. I didn’t want a sprint finish, because then some would have said it was a coincidence or a tactical race. But today was not a tactical race. I just won it. I was the best runner.
Ingebrigtsen was motivated after finishing second in the 1500m last week. Immediately after this race, he said he was “disappointed” and “embarrassed” by his result.
In the 5,000m, he was out for redemption against a decorated field that included Jacob Krop of Kenya, who finished second, and Oscar Chelimo of Uganda, who finished third. Grant Fisher of the United States was sixth and Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda, who holds the world record for the event, moved up to ninth.
Ingebrigtsen seemed so sure of himself that he did something unusual: he swerved twice on the backstretch to try to take on water at a pit stop. After blowing out on his first attempt, he had more success in the next round.
“I realized in the heat that it was very dry,” he said. “And if I felt good enough and the pace wasn’t too bad, then I was like, ‘Why not?’ ”
He imposed his will with about two laps to go, picking up his pace to the point that everyone was hurting in his wake. He wiggled his index finger as he finished alone.
“I didn’t want anyone to doubt who was the better runner tonight,” he said. “And if you can make a race boring, that’s a good achievement.”
Its range is something to behold. Last month he thrilled Oslo fans by running 3:46.46 for the mile, the fastest anyone has run the mile in nearly 21 years.
Today, he is world champion in the 5000 m. How is it possible? Last month, Henrik described their workout as a series of cups with little holes in the bottom.
The first cup is the base cup, which they fill with miles to form a foundation. When this cup is full, they switch to an endurance cup, with miles at a threshold pace – a speed of around half a marathon. But they still have to watch out for the leaky first cup. (Stay with us.) When the first two cups overflow, they transition to a third cup, with faster workouts for a 5,000 meter workout. And then a fourth cup for the 1,500. Here’s the problem: all four cups must be maintained during a training cycle.
“It’s a lot more fun to fill that last cup because it’s track sessions and speed,” Henrik said. “But I think Jakob is much more consistent than many of his rivals because that first cup is always full. The second cup is always full.
In the closing stages of his 5,000m qualifying round on Thursday, Jakob used his arms to inspire the crowd to show some enthusiasm as he approached the finish. Later, he was asked about the warm weather forecast for Sunday’s final. He seemed to smile under his mask.
“Hot weather is just happy weather!” says Jacob.
Doubt him at your peril. He knew what was coming.
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