The “best Bislett Games” thrill Oslo

Jakob Ingebrigtsen leads record night

Ingebrigtsen

Photo: Fredrik Varfjell / NTB
Jakob Ingebrigtsen celebrates as he crosses the finish line of the 1,500m during the Diamond League Bislett Games 2023 at Bislett Stadium in Oslo.

“What the past is prologue.”

William Shakespeare in The Tempest

Jakob Ingebrigtsen prepped for the Bislett Games on home grounds by setting the European record in the British 2-mile of 7:54.10 in Paris on June 9. At Rabat, Morocco, May 28, Ingebrigtsen won the 1,500m in 3:32.59; followed by Yared Nuguse (USA) 3:33.02 and Oliver Hoare (Australia) 3:33.39.

Records fell at a near capacity Bislett Stadium in Oslo, June 15, leaving Bislett Director Steinar Hoen beaming.  Among the new records was Ingebrigtsen setting the European record in the 1,500m of 3:27.95, which bettered his previous personal best by 0.37. At an international press conference and strawberry festival the day before the games, athletes were given miniature statues of themselves. Apparently, this wasn’t good enough for Ingebrigtsen.

The 22-year-old, who has been winning races since he was 17, joked, “If I beat the world record in the 1,500 meters tomorrow, then I deserve a statue outside Bislett.”

To which Hoen replied, “If you break the record tomorrow, I will personally erect a statue of you.”

Ingebrigtsen should have said, “European,” but Hoen might want to start chiseling anyway. Who knows what records Ingebrigtsen will set before his career is over?

Some are touting the race as “one for the ages.” Though, some of the fastest runners didn’t participate, it was still a strong field. Ingebrigtsen took the lead early with Spain’s Mohamed Satir tailing and pulled away in the last 150m. At the press conference, Ingebrigtsen said he didn’t concern himself with records, only winning. After crossing the finish line, he punched his fist in the air and roared in a celebration rarely seen from him. In another first, the top eight runners all clocked under 3:30. Satir was second (3:28.89), followed by Nuguse (3:29.02), Kenyan legend Timothy Cheruiyot (3:29.08), Spain’s Mario García (3:29.18), France’s Azeddine Habz (3:29.26), Hoare (3:29.41) and Norway’s Narve Gilje Nordås (3:29.47), who is coached by Ingebrigtsen’s father, Gjert. While Gjert is not coaching Jakob this season, he coached another Sandes boy to run below 3:30, two runners from the same town.

“I get a little shaky talking about it (the record), actually,” said Ingebrigtsen to NRK. “It is not a given that one will be able to improve upon it. Running is incredibly fun, and doing it in the capital in front of the Norwegian people is the most fun you can do. It is incredible to do this at Bislett. The conditions were right and the atmosphere here hits the heartstrings. Then, it’s cool to deliver the race for the ages. I will remember this forever.”

Nordås’ performance shocked him and he couldn’t grasp he’s the second fastest Norwegian in history in the distance. “It’s unreal, a dream,” Nordås told NRK. “I don’t understand what that clock shows. It shouldn’t work. I don’t understand it myself.”

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Henrik og Jakob Ingebrigtsen møter publikum under Diamond League Bislett Games 2023 på Bislett Stadion.
Foto: Fredrik Varfjell / NTB

Interest in the race was evident from the TV viewership. NRK said the audience jumped up to 540,000 Norwegian viewers for the 1,500m, while it averaged 395,000 for the rest of the meet.

Norwegian Karsten Warholm was also a draw that didn’t disappoint, capturing the 400mH in 46.52, almost a second better than the United States’ CJ Allen (47.58) and 1.61 ahead of France’s Wilfried Happio (48.13). For Warholm, though the time was 0.58 slower than his world record time at the 2021 Summer Olympics, it was the world’s fastest time this year, overcoming Rai Benjamin (47.74), and it came in his season debut returning from an injury. The time still bested his Bislett and Diamond League records.

“When you’re on the track, you’re in the bubble, but I really felt the crowd lift me in the home straight—the adrenaline was really pumping in the last 100 meters,” Warholm said on world-track.org. “It really sucked to be out injured last year and I wanted to make sure I came back with a big boom. I’ve worked really hard to get back to this level.”

Salum Ageze Kashafali set the world record in the 100m in his para visually impaired class. Håvard Brentdal Ingvaldsen finished fourth (44.86) in the men’s 400m, 0.48 behind first place Wayde Van Niekerk (Republic of South Africa) but it was a Norwegian record.

In the women’s 400mH, Femke Bol of the Netherlands broke her own world record with a time of 52.30–showing the Dutch are not just speed skaters. She pulled away in the last 100m and eclipsed her Bislett record time last year (52.61) and her previous world record set earlier this year (52.43).

Bislett records were set by Yomif Kejelcha (Ethiopia), 12:41.73 in the men’s 5,000m; Marie-Joseé Ta Lou (Ivory Coast) 10.75 in women’s 100m, and Erriyon Knighton (United States) 19.77 in the men’s 200m. Kejelcha won a photo finish with Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo. In the women’s 100m, 0.23 separated Lou and fifth place.

Bislett Games outpointed the Paris meet the weekend before for the best Diamond League meet of the season thus far.

In other Norwegian results: Magnus Tuv Myre was 10th (13:09.44) and Henrik Ingebrigtsen 11th in the men’s 5,000m (13:18.04); Sondre Guttormsen (5.71m) and Pål Haugen Lillefosse (5.61m) were sixth and seventh in the men’s pole vault; Ingar Bratseth-Kiplesund was seventh in the men’s long jump (7.75m).

“The whole of Oslo suddenly found out that they were going to Bislett,” exuded Hoen to NTB. “Then we get that (beautiful) weather, and the best athletics meet in the world. It was completely crazy. The evening was crowned with Karsten Warholm’s second fastest career time in the 400-meter hurdles, before Jakob Ingebrigtsen ended it all with a European record in the 1,500 meters. That ending with Karsten and Jakob is completely insane. When I sat and watched Paris, I just thought ‘yes, they won.’ But then little Bislett comes and just crushes them. At least in my era as convention director and assistant, since 2006, this is the best Bislett Games.”

This article originally appeared in the July 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Michael Kleiner

Michael Kleiner, business and sports editor, has more than three decades of experience as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. He has operated his own PR and web design business for small businesses, authors and community organizations in Philadelphia since 1999. Not of Norwegian descent, he lived in Norway for a year with his family at age 11 and has returned as an adult. He is the author of a memoir, Beyond the Cold: An American’s Warm Portrait of Norway, and a member of NorCham Philadelphia. Visit Kleinerprweb.com; beyondthecold.com.