The Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships were defined in part by youthful exuberance with a new generation of stars hurtling to worldwide prominence in the German capital.
One night before 18-year-old Armand Duplantis scaled a championship record of 6.05m in the pole vault, Norwegian wunderkind Jakob Ingebrigtsen completed a remarkable and unprecedented 1500/5000m double at the Berlin Olympic Stadium.
Ingebrigtsen won both titles on back-to-back nights to become the first athlete in history - male or female - to win the 1500m and 5000m titles at the same championships. At 17, he also had the distinction of becoming the youngest ever male athlete to win a European title.
Ingebrigtsen’s talent was undeniable but what was just as impressive was his tactical mastery in both races. After amassing five medals combined at the 2017 European U20 Championships and 2018 World U20 Championships, Ingebrigtsen was making his senior championships debut in Berlin but he ran with the authority and confidence of a seasoned campaigner.
After the 1500m final, Henrik, the elder statesman of the Ingebrigtsens, commented: 'He was the youngest guy in the field running like he is 10 years older than everybody else!'
The Ingebrigtsens had won two of the last three European 1500m finals prior to Berlin. Henrik got the ball rolling by winning the 1500m in Helsinki in 2012 before Filip followed suit four years later in Amsterdam and with all three brothers progressing through the heats, a complete Ingebrigtsen shutout of the medals wasn’t discounted either.
Almost on cue, the Ingebrigtsens moved up as a triumvirate in the 1500m final to occupy the top three places with two laps remaining. By no means overawed by the occasion, Jakob took up his position at the front with Filip and Henrik, the reigning and past winner of this title respectively, in tow.
With a lifetime best of 3:30.01 set in Monaco just before the European Championships, Filip was the prospective title favourite but whereas Jakob and Henrik progressed through their 1500m heats unscathed, Filip took a heavy fall with 700 metres remaining and was rather fortunate to qualify automatically for the final.
As Jakob cranked up the pace from the front, Filip and Henrik both tracked their younger brother’s progress down the back straight of the last lap but the reigning champion surprisingly began to drift out of contention as the charge for the medals began in earnest. It was later revealed that Filip, who finished 12th, had broken a rib in the melee in his 1500m heat.
With Filip fading out of contention and Henrik embroiled in a dogfight to clinch a minor medal, the biggest threat to Ingebrigtsen now came from the fast finishing Polish veteran Marcin Lewandowski who was only ninth with 200 metres remaining before making remarkable progress in the home straight.
Had Lewandowski timed his finish just a fraction earlier, the title might have very well been the Pole’s ownership but Jakob duly continued the incredible family tradition in the 1500m at the European Championships by clinging on to the title at 17, winning gold in 3:38.10 by just 0.04 ahead of Lewandowski.
Jakob is an athlete who is seldom, if ever, lacking in confidence but even he was momentarily incredulous as he waited for the scoreboard to confirm the outcome. “I was wondering if I missed a lap or something,” said the bemused young champion in the immediate aftermath.
Jakob’s feat in the 1500m provided one of the enduring headlines of the championships but if anything, he was even more dominant in the 5000m final the following day, leading an Ingebrigtsen one-two with Henrik atoning for his fourth-place finish in the 1500m.
Not showing any semblance of emotional or physical fatigue from the 1500m, Jakob serenely took up the running with one kilometre remaining and his uptake of the pace was met with scant resistance. He cut loose on the last lap to win gold in a European U20 record of 13:17.06 by almost two seconds from Henrik in 13:18.75.
“Believe me, we started preparing for the 5k final, as soon as we crossed the line on the 1500m last night,” said Jakob who even shared a mid-race high five with Henrik, such was his confidence.
With silver, Henrik took his European medal tally up to four but the evening - and the championships - belonged to his younger brother Jakob who became the first athlete to sweep the 1500m and 5000m titles at the European Championships.
'Even when I won in 2012, everyone was saying it was about Jakob at that point,” said Henrik. “He was that good at 11, but from a talented 11-year-old runner to being a European champion, it is a long way. Everything seems to have gone his way in the last few years.”