When we think of middle-distance track running, countries like Kenya and Ethiopia often come to mind as the dominant forces. However, the Ingebrigsten brothers have undeniably propelled Norway into the spotlight in the world of track events.
Henrik (32), Filip (30), and Jakob (23) have amassed numerous accolades throughout their careers, with Jakob’s crowning achievement being his gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the 1500m, where he also set an Olympic record.
What makes their story particularly unique is the role of their father, Gjert Ingebrigtsen, who coached them during their formative years and throughout most of their elite careers.
Notably, Gjert, an accountant with no prior sports or coaching experience, guided his sons to become formidable forces in both Norwegian and international athletics.
However, as the brothers’ success in the sport continued to rise, Gjert Ingebrigtsen garnered attention for his incredibly strict and unorthodox training methods. Despite the controversy surrounding his approach, there was no denying that he was achieving results.
In addition to training his three sons, Gjert also took on the role of coaching another talented Norwegian middle-distance runner, Narve Gilje Nordås.
Over the years, friction developed between Gjert and his sons due to the demanding and rigid training environment he had created. This eventually led to a fractured relationship, resulting in all three of his sons dismissing him as their coach in 2022.
Meanwhile, Gjert continued to coach Nordås, further highlighting the strained family dynamics.
Recently, the Norwegian Athletics Association (NFIF) made a decision that had far-reaching consequences for Gjert Ingebrigtsen.
The NFIF denied him accreditation at major upcoming events, including the World Indoor Track Championships in Glasgow in March, the European Outdoor Track Championships in June, and potentially the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
This decision stemmed from incidents that occurred during a team training camp in Sierra Nevada, Spain, where the Ingebrigtsen brothers clashed with Nordås.
The eldest brother, Henrik, reportedly told Nordås that he was not allowed to sit at the same table and asked him to leave the area designated for the Norwegian team.
The strained relationship between the Ingebrigtsen brothers and Nordås was a key factor in Gjert’s loss of accreditation for these events.
Of the three brothers, Jakob stands out as Norway’s best middle-distance runner. He expressed discomfort with his father’s presence on the infield at events, prompting the Norwegian Athletics Association to take action.
In an official statement, NFIF explained their decision, stating, “Central to the justification is a safe framework with athletes at the center. Something we consider not possible given the ongoing situation between Gjert and the Ingebrigtsen brothers.”
Gjert also faced accreditation denial for the World Championships earlier in the year in Budapest. This meant he had to stay at a separate hotel and was not granted access to training facilities.
The tension between the Ingebrigtsen brothers and Nordås remained palpable in Budapest, with all parties keeping their distance. So much so that Nordås chose to stay in the same hotel as Gjert, rather than with the national team, and refrained from approaching the Norwegian athletes’ tent on the track.
As a consequence of the Norwegian Athletics Association’s refusal to grant him accreditation, Gjert decided to pursue the matter legally, enlisting the services of lawyer John Christian Elden. In response, NFIF also engaged their own legal counsel to address the conflict with Gjert Ingebrigtsen.
Kjetil Hildeskor, the general secretary at NFIF, commented, “Based on the inquiry from lawyer Elden and the fact that there are reservations about legal action, the athletics association finds it natural to engage its own lawyer, who has established contact with Elden about further follow-up.”
The Ingebrigtsen family’s internal conflict has been widely covered in track and field news and has sparked debates about the boundaries between personal and professional matters, as well as the decision-making authority of NFIF.