Jakob Ingebrigtsen created history at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Tilburg today (9) as he became the first man to win the U20 title three times, bringing just another touch of gloss to his amazing year.
And this time it was not just one gold but two as he led Norway to team glory on a memorable morning for the nation.
This 18-year-old was the toast of Berlin in the summer with his victories in the 1500m and 5000m at the European Championships, producing performances which had reverberations around the world.
And now back in this age-group event, he never looked stressed - or in too much trouble - even though for long periods he was behind Spain’s Ouassim Oumaiz, who waved to the crowd during periods of the race when he was in front.
But when it came to the final 1300m of the 6.3km race, Ingebrigtsen looked like he knew he had victory sealed a long way out. Here at the Beekse Bergen Safari Park, it was all about making the best use of conditions that would only become muddier as the morning went on.
It was raining, just as it had been for the past two days, and it was a course with an early climb, a succession of logs to step over, sand at one stage, then a section of grass after a series of twists and turns track woodland.
But Ingebrigtsen has become unbreakable and the champion from Chia in 2016 and Samorin in 2017 sealed his success when he moved to the front with 500 metres left. Occasionally touching the barriers to keep his balance, he just broke further clear and celebrated by diving into the mud, winning the 6.3km contest in 18:00 from Oumaiz in 18:09 with Elzan Bibic taking bronze for Serbia in 18:11.
“I have never done anything like this before, so it is fun for me to compete in these conditions,” said Ingebrigtsen. “It was a tough race, the course was tough. With all the mud, it was difficult to get in the rhythm.”
With the top athletes from each squad counting, Simen Halle Haugen was a superb fifth in 18:18 with Hakon Stavik in 22nd in 19:05 to achieve the team gold.
It was close, as they won with 28 points, from Great Britain, led by Jake Heyward in fourth in 18:16, with 30 and Germany in bronze with 38, with Mohamed Mohumed their first man home in sixth in 18:27.
Battocletti wins historic gold for Italy
Nadia Battocletti won gold for Italy as the SPAR European Cross Country Championships opened with a dramatic U20 race in Tilburg.
Fifth last year Battocletti, 19, made no mistake as she bided her time after the Netherlands’ Jasmijn Lau had moved to the front on the final of three laps of the 4.3km course in her own bid to bring the host nation glory.
But the European U20 3000m bronze medallist used her track speed to full advantage to take over with 500 metres left, extending her lead and never looking trouble as she won in 13:46 ahead of Switzerland’s Delia Sclabas (13:47) and Turkey’s Inci Kalkan (13:48).
Lau was fourth in 13:51 while in fifth, having picked herself up from a fall, was Great Britain’s Amelia Quirk in 13:57, a performance which saw the nation retain team gold.
“It was a difficult race, not only because of the weather, but also because of the strong opponents, they are all strong opponents,” said Battocletti. “I didn’t expect to win but I dreamed about it. My father, who is also my coach, did say I was going to win.”
Two runners fell within 20 metres as the Netherlands’ Roos Blokhuis made the first move to lead as the rain greeted the athletes from the start.
This event was wide open, with Ireland’s Sarah Healy one of the big favourites having won the 1500m and 3000m double at the European U18 Championships in Gyor in the summer.
But Battocletti, who had tested out this course at the Warandeloop in Tilburg last month, led at the end of the first lap in 4.48 alongside Spain’s Carla Gallardo.
She had done her homework and it was paying off but at the start of the second lap, Healy and Quirk both fell, quickly picking themselves up but needing to overcome that jolt to their system.
By 3000m Battocletti led by a second from Sclabas but Lau then decided it was time she made her mark. With her nation’s colours painted across her face, it looked a decisive move but Battocletti had too much in reserve.
Sclabas put down a challenge but it was never going to be enough and the Italian blew a kiss as the line drew nearer and could hardly believe it as she broke the tape to triumph, becoming the first Italian woman to win a gold medal in European Cross Country Championships history.
Great Britain won the team event with 23 points while Lau’s fourth place led to a medal as the Netherlands’ took team silver with 28 points from Turkey, led by Kalcan, winning team bronze.
“Battling throughout the whole race bring us this second place and it’s even more special that it is our own country, that really helped,” said Lau. “It is amazing to see so many people here.”