A year ago his achievements were unprecedented when he won the U20 crown for the third time at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships and Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen now has the chance to stretch his legacy even further in Lisbon on Sunday (8).
Prior to Tilburg twelve months ago, no male athlete had won three titles in the U20 category. He did so with everything that makes him the runner he is: endurance, timing and speed when it really mattered.
His victory was emphatic, a nine second triumph over Spain’s Ouassim Oumaiz and further confirmation – if it was needed – of his position as one of Europe’s brightest middle distance prospects. His confidence was such that Ingebrigtsen wanted to join his brothers and also contest the senior men’s race later in the programme at the Beekse Bergen Safari Park.
Ingebrigtsen confirmed on Wednesday that he will toe the start-line in the first race of the day at the Bela Vista Park which will mean double the concentration is needed for his rivals when the gun fires at 10.00am in Lisbon, the third time the European Cross Country Championships has been staged in Portugal.
It might have seemed impossible for Ingebrigtsen to match the standards he set in 2018 but Ingebrigtsen has put together another magnificent 12 months, winning the 3000m title at the Glasgow 2019 European Athletics Indoor Championships and finishing fourth and fifth at the World Athletics Championships in Doha. The 19-year-old has also lowered his European U20 records to 3:30.16 for 1500m, 3:51.30 for the mile and 13:02.03 for 5000m and also set a European 10km best of 27:54.
Can anyone stop Ingebrigtsen from making it four in a row? Germany’s Elias Schreml produced the performance of his career to win the 3000m title at the Boras 2019 European Athletics U20 Championships and he is part of a full-size German team in the U20 race.
One of the athletes with the strongest track credentials in the field is Belgium’s Tim Van de Velde who has a chance to atone for his performance at the Boras 2019 European Athletics U20 Championships. The 19-year-old has an eye-catching lifetime best of 8:33.80 for the 3000m steeplechase but the teenager found himself bereft of this form in Boras, finishing a distant tenth in the final.
The Portuguese team will be in contention for medals both individually and collectively. Their team features the reigning European U20 1500m champion Nuno Pereira and European U20 3000m steeplechase bronze medallist Etson Barros who will spearhead the host nation’s challenge for their first U20 team medal since Albufeira in 2010.
Ingebrigtsen proved age means nothing in 2016 and four 16-years-old in this race may bear that in mind. Czech Republic’s David Slapak, Great Britain’s Will Barnicoat and Switzerland’s Jonathan Hofer were all born in 2003, as was Denmark’s Joel Ibler Lilleso, who celebrated that birthday just over two weeks ago.
Reigning champion Battocletti faces four European U20 champions
Like Ingebrigtsen, the defending women’s U20 champion Italy’s Nadia Battocletti is back and also in her final year as a junior.
And as Portugal stages the European Cross Country Championships for a third time, a thrilling rematch in this race over 4.225km could be in store in the Bela Vista Park.
In Tilburg, just one second separated the gold and silver medallists, with Battocletti winning the title in a sprint finish just ahead of Delia Sclabas. The Swiss star will surely have the top spot on the podium on her mind in her final significant race as a junior as well.
At the European Athletics U20 Championships, Battocletti won silver in the 5000m while Sclabas returned home from Boras with two medals to her name – gold in the 1500m and silver in the 800m. Sclabas, 19, has accrued seven medals from major world and European championships on the track and an individual gold medal in Lisbon would crown her dazzling junior career.
Three more European U20 champions from Boras will also compete in Lisbon: Poland’s Zofia Dudek in the 3000m, Slovenia’s Klara Lukan in the 5000m and Germany’s Paula Schneiders in the 3000m steeplechase.
If the hosts are looking for success, Mariana Machado has a fine a chance of providing it in this second race of the day. Machado was also medallist in Boras, winning silver in the 3000m – missing out on gold by a small margin – before finishing fourth in the 1500m final on the same day.
Machado will also be making her final appearance as a junior at these championships and she is certainly one of the in-form athletes in this age group, taking an excellent win over world marathon silver medallist Rose Chelimo over 8km in Soria last month. If Machado was to prevail on Sunday morning, she would become the third Portuguese winner of this title after Ines Monteiro in 1999 and Jessica Augusto in 2000.
Great Britain & NI have won eight of the last nine team titles and their team is headed by British Trials winner Saskia Millard.
A famous name will be in the Spanish team – Viciosa – Angela Viciosa, the 17-year-old daughter of one of the country’s greats, Isaac, the 1998 European 5000m gold medallist.
Now his daughter has the chance to bring more honours to the family – having been born in the year in which her dad was part of the Spanish team which won team bronze at the 2002 World Cross Country Championships in Dublin, the city which is staging the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in 2020.
Men’s U20 race medallists (6120m) in 2018:
1. Jakob Ingebrigtsen (NOR) 18:00
2. Ouassim Oumaiz (ESP) 18:09
3. Elzan Bibic (SRB) 18:11
Team: 1. NOR, 2. GBR, 3. GER
Women’s U20 race medallists (4120m) in 2018:
1. Nadia Battocletti (ITA) 13:46
2. Delia Sclabas (SUI) 13:47
3. Inci Kalkan (TUR) 13:48
Team: 1. GBR, 2. NED, 3. TUR