Jakob Ingebrigtsen on What Comes Next After Olympic Gold, Newbury Park, & His 2022 Plans
May 10, 2022
On Friday, Olympic 1500-meter champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway opened his 2022 outdoor season with a victory at the Sound Running Track Meet in California. As usual, Ingebrigtsen looked smooth and relaxed for the majority of the race before pulling away from Germany’s Mohamed Mohumed for the victory in 13:02.03, well under the 13:13.50 standard for July’s World Championships in Eugene.
After the race, the Ingebrigtsen, who has been training at altitude in Flagstaff as he builds toward the Bowerman Mile at the Prefontaine Classic on May 28, held court with a few reporters, offering candid responses on everything from the young stars at Newbury Park High School to how he finds motivation after claiming the sport’s highest honor before his 21st birthday.
“The peak is really high but also right after the peak, there’s a big low”
Every runner dreams of winning an Olympic gold medal. Few dream of what comes next. What happens after you show up to your first Olympics and accomplish a lifelong goal at the age of 20?
It is a nice problem to have, but the post-Olympic comedown is real. Even for athletes who didn’t medal, every Olympics marks the end of a four-year (or in this case five-year) cycle in which everything builds up to one race that may only last three-and-a-half minutes. That cycle provides meaning and purpose to an athlete’s daily grind. But once it’s over, it can be hard to rediscover that meaning and purpose, especially when the next Olympics are suddenly three years away.
“It’s really strange because I trained for that specific race for basically my whole life,” Ingebrigtsen said. “The peak is really high but also right after the peak, there’s a big low because I’ve done it, so what’s the meaning of going back to training and doing all the shit work that’s needed to get back in the same shape?”
Ingebrigtsen still has goals he would like to achieve. He believes he can run faster than his 3:28.32 personal best, and he wants to win a World Championship title this summer in Eugene. And while more gold medals (and perhaps world records) may lie in his future, it is also entirely possible that the greatest moment of his athletic career — setting an Olympic record to win a gold medal — has already happened. That can be difficult for a young athlete to reconcile.
Listening to Ingebrigtsen describe his future goals, he does not sound like a man motivated to become the fastest human or greatest runner who ever lived. He sounds more like a man who might have actually been okay walking away from the sport — except he’s currently fitter than all but a handful of humans in history, and what kind of person wouldn’t try to take advantage of that while it lasts?
“I’m still competitive,” Ingebrigtsen said. “That’s the bad part for me, I just can’t throw in the towel and say that I’m finished. I want to win the World Championship as well. And when I’m this fast, it would have been stupid to not go after some records…It’s been really tough mentally. At the same time, I have a good team around me.”
Ingebrigtsen says he “wasn’t at [his] best” at World Indoors and says (with a smile), “I think if I was healthy, I would have won by 100 meters.”
The Track Meet was Ingebrigtsen’s first race since his surprise defeat in the 1500 meters at World Indoors, where he took silver behind Ethiopia’s Samuel Tefera. Ingebrigtsen was not happy to lose the race, but he has done a good job of keeping the defeat in perspective.
“I was really unlucky because I got the coronavirus a couple days before the final,” he said. “So I think if I was healthy, I would have won by 100 meters [smiles]. But no, of course there were a lot of good runners, but I wasn’t at my best. And that’s just how it is sometimes. In the Olympics, I got the perfect day and some guys didn’t and that’s just how it is.”
“1500 is the main event, but if it’s possible to do more events at the same time, I will try to do that”
Looking at the 2022 outdoor season, Ingebrigtsen said he was still in his base phase last week and that his only goal in showing up at the Track Meet was to earn the World Championship standard, which he accomplished with ease. The faster stuff will start soon though as he prepares for the Bowerman Mile at the Prefontaine Classic on May 28 and the World Championships in July.
“I haven’t really done anything, track sessions or whatever,” Ingebrigtsen said. “Of course, I will start to do that when I arrive back to Flagstaff and try to get fit to Eugene.”
Some have wondered whether Ingebrigtsen, who set the world indoor record at 1500 meters in February at 3:30.60, would target Hicham El Guerrouj‘s outdoor record of 3:26.00, which was set in 1998 — two years before Ingebrigtsen was born. But that seems unlikely given Ingebrigtsen will be racing at two major meets this summer, Worlds from July 15-24 in Eugene and Europeans from August 15-21 in Munich.
“I try to race as much as possible, but this year of course with the World Championship and also the European Championship, there’s not really that much room to compete outside of that,” Ingebrigtsen said.
The good news for distance fans is that we could get a double dose of Ingebrigtsen at Worlds. Ingebrigtsen attempted the 1500/5000 double in Doha in 2019, and though he didn’t medal in either race (he was 4th in the 1500 and 5th in the 5000), he seemed game to give it a go again this year. The schedule works nicely as his stronger event, the 1500, comes first (days 2, 3, and 5) followed by the 5000 (days 7 and 10).
“I’ve always had the mentality that I want to run as much as possible and win as much as possible,” Ingebrigtsen said. “But of course 1500 is the main event, but if it’s possible to do more events at the same time, I will try to do that.”
“13:40, 13:20, that’s nothing in the bigger picture”
Ingebrigtsen was asked after his race about the boys of Newbury Park High School, who had a great meet themselves (18-year-old senior Colin Sahlman ran 3:39.59 to move to #4 on the all-time US high school 1500 list, while 17-year-old junior Lex Young ran 13:43.95 to move to #2 on the 5000 list). Ingebrigtsen, who knows a thing or two about being a teen phenom, didn’t really answer the question but said that the important thing is to continue improving as they move through the levels.
“I focus a lot about myself [laughs],” Ingebrigtsen said. “Of course, I try to follow as much as I can, but of course Diamond League is first priority and all that. That’s the funny thing about social media, everybody posting if someone runs fast and does well. And I see that there’s a lot of high schoolers and also young people in college running fast. But they can’t quit there. They need to take the next step going into pro and run even faster. 13:40, 13:20, that’s nothing in the bigger picture. But it’s a good step in the right direction.”
Watch the full post-race interview with Ingebrigtsen below: