Doha, Qatar | AFP | Gjert Ingebrigtsen admits he is a dictator but one who produces results as three of his sons — Jakob, Henrik and Filip — will contest Monday’s 5,000 metres final at the World Athletics Championships.
The youngest of the Norwegian family trio, 19-year-old Jakob — who achieved a remarkable 1500m/5,000m double at the European Championships last year — earned a reprieve to join them in the final after winning an appeal against disqualification following his heat in Doha on Friday.
Their story is not unique in terms of three brothers succeeding in athletics — the Borlee siblings (Dylan, Jonathan and Kevin), also coached by their father, won European gold last year in the Belgian 4x400m relay team.
But the Ingebritsens’ story stands out given that their father had no athletics background whatsoever.
The 53-year-old Gjert’s skills appeared to lie elsewhere as he acts as accountant for his wife Tone’s hair salon business and his day job is working for a logistics company.
He revels in having been termed a dictator by Filip — who was European 1500m champion in 2016 following in the footsteps of 28-year-old Henrik, who won the title in 2012 — in a reality television series that Gjert agreed to despite the reservations of his sons.
In the TV series, Filip objected to his father forcing the 26-year-old to cancel a holiday wth his then girlfriend.
– ‘You have to be a dictator’ –
Filip’s subsequent move to Oslo with his now wife last year from the family home city of Sandnes was not appreciated by Gjert.
“I don’t know anybody from Oslo being good at anything,” Gjert dismissively told the Daily Telegraph. “In sport, a dictatorship is much better than the opposite.
“You have a small time of year to be at your best and you cannot have democratic decisions for everything.
“You have to be a dictator. You have to take decisions in a short time and have to believe that what you are doing is the best for the boys.”
Gjert, who is also the boys’ agent and manager, may have produced results on the track but they are not necessarily approved of by the Norwegian populace as a whole.
“They don’t really like the professional mentality in Norway,” Filip told the Daily Telegraph.
“They want to be like they are just out for recreational training and suddenly you’re the best.
“That’s not how things work. You need to be focused over time. You need to have a different mentality. You can’t be like the rest.”
The boys — three of seven children ranging in age from 31 to five — have been ultra-competitive from the early days, even down to which of them would get in or out of the family car first.
Super excited to reach my first final in a global championship!! 😇🚶🏽♂️🙌🏽🇶🇦 Can’t believe that 3x Ingebrigtsen is ready to race on monday, LET’S GO! 🥰🎉 #Final #Doha2019 #TeamIngebrigtsen 🇳🇴 @ Khalifa International… https://t.co/AEqTZgji81
— Jakob Ingebrigtsen (@JakobIng) September 28, 2019
– ‘To endure me’ –
Gjert told the BBC there was no special switch that was suddenly turned on — they were just a normal Norwegian family enjoying outdoor pursuits and he is not “especially interested in sport.”
“It might be that I am rather strict in the way I see things,” he said.
“The boys come to me and say: ‘I want to be a European champion.’
“I say: ‘I want to help you, I can help you, but you have to do everything that I tell you.’
“I stand out from other parents. I am very demanding and it is a kind of contract between me and the boys to help them be the best they can be — but they have to endure me following them every day all year.”
Filip, who will along with Jakob double up in the 1500m, does despite his “dictator” remark appreciate the end results.
“He will always be my father,” he told the BBC. “You can’t take that hat off and say now I am your coach.