Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen will be heavily involved in the Munich 2022 European Athletics Championships, part of the wider multisport European Championships, as he defends the 1500m and 5000m titles he won as a 17-year-old at the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships.
The Olympic 1500m champion and world 5000m champion will not, however, face the either of his brothers Filip and Henrik who are both injured nor the Brit who unexpectedly beat him to the world 1500m title in Eugene last month, Jake Wightman.
The latter is concentrating on the 800m in Munich – the event he originally planned to do at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games until he was nudged back to the longer distance because of the number of friends and family who had bought tickets for the final last Saturday when he won bronze in a high quality final in 3:30.53.
With a personal best of 1:44.18 from 2020, Wightman has a realistic chance of adding another European medal to the bronze he won over 1500m in Berlin four years ago – and his victory over 1000m at the Monaco Diamond League meeting on Wednesday night in 2:13.88, ninth fastest of all-time, will have done his confidence no harm at all.
France’s Benjamin Robert has the fastest 2022 time of all entrants – the 1:43.75 he clocked in winning at the Paris Diamond League on 18 June in boisterous fashion, squeezing in between the two leaders with enough physicality to be disqualified before being reinstated on appeal. If things get physical in Munich, Robert is unlikely to come off second best.
Tony van Diepen is also well acquainted with the hurly-burly of the track having been a part of the Dutch teams that won 4x400m silver at the Tokyo 2020 Games and mixed 4x400m silver at the World Championships in Oregon.
Individually, van Diepen has won European indoor silver in 2021 and bronze in 2019 over 400m and has a best 800m time of 1:44.14 set this year in Paris after M. Robert had burst past him at the Stade Charlety. Robert’s compatriot Gabriel Tual, seventh in last year’s Olympic final, is third fastest on this year’s European list with 1:44.23, set in – you’ve guessed it – Paris. But the French team will be without the popular Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, the 2017 world champion, due to injury.
Poland’s Patryk Dobek has run 1:44.59 this year and even though he exited in the heats at the World Athletics Championships, he can also draw upon the experience of winning bronze at last year’s Olympics in Tokyo.
Other medal prospects include Sweden’s Andreas Kramer (1:44.59), Ireland’s Mark English (1:44.76), fellow Brits Ben Pattison (1:44.60) and Kyle Langford (1:44.61), Spain’s reigning world indoor champion Mariano Garcia (1:45.12) and the very experienced former two-time world medallist Amel Tuka from Bosnia and Herzegovina (1:46.15) whose lifetime best of 1:42.57 dates back to 2015.
Aside from Bosse, another notable absentee will be the three-time reigning champion Adam Kszczot from Poland who retired at the start of the year.
Ingebrigtsen’s path to double gold is clearer although not without challenges
With Wightman elsewhere, Ingebrigtsen will surely feel happier about the prospect of his 1500m defence, but he will still face a field full of Spanish and British medal threats.
Second on this year’s European list with 3:30.20, Spain’s Mario Garcia will be looking to give the Norwegian wonderboy another run for his money after finishing fourth – two places behind Ingebrigtsen – in Oregon.
The Brits dominate the 2022 European list with six athletes in the top nine and despite the absence of Wightman and Olympic bronze medallist Josh Kerr, Jake Heyward (3:31.08), Neil Gourley (3:32.93) and Matt Stonier (3:32.50) form a trio with clear medal-winning ability.
But Ingebrigtsen, who ran 3:29.47 to take world silver, and ran an Olympic and European record of 3:28.32 at the Tokyo 2020 Games, should have enough to cover any challenge in both events.
In the 5000m, it might be the athlete who appears second from last on the entry-list in terms of season’s bests who could provide the biggest challenge to Ingebrigtsen. That athlete is Spain’s Mohammed Katir who won a bronze medal behind Ingebrigtsen in the 1500m at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon and will be focusing solely on the longer event in Munich.
Katir, 24, has a modest season’s best of 13:43.61 from the Spanish Championships but he showed what he can do over the longer distance by running a national record of 12:50.79 in Rome last summer in the same race where Ingebrigtsen broke the European record with 12:48.65.
Another strong potential challenger is the experienced Spaniard Adel Mechaal, who was fifth in the Olympic 1500m final last year and set a 5000m personal best of 13:06.02 in Oslo in June. Mechaal didn’t make it through to the final of the World Athletics Championships but that wasn’t too surprising as he had only just recovered from an untimely bout of coronavirus which forced him to miss the 1500m.
In both the 5000m and 10,000m, watch out for Italy’s Yemaneberhan Crippa, 25, who has been a star performer in numerous European competitions, winning bronze at the 2019 European Cross Country Championships and the European 10,000m Cup in the same year.
Crippa has the fastest time among the entrants based on season’s best performances in the 10,000m with 27:16.18 ahead of another showboating, talented figure in Jimmy Gressier of France – he of the famous faceplant as he won the 2018 European U23 cross country title. This didn’t stop him from walking through the line to win the same title the following year, demonstrating just how much time he had to spare.
There weren’t quite the same histrionics at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Dublin last December but Gressier let his running do the talking and he came away with his first senior medal in a race where Ingebrigtsen ruled triumphant once again.
Gressier will be focusing solely on the 10,000m in Munich and the Frenchman is the second fastest performer this year with 27:24.51 which he set at the European 10,000m Cup on home soil in Pacé in May when he ran away from the field for the individual title.
Belgium’s Isaac Kimeli is another familiar fixture on the European scene who will go for both the 5000m and 10,000m along with Great Britain’s Sam Atkin and Germany’s Mohamed Mohumed, the latter second to Ingebrigtsen on the 5000m season’s list with 13:03.18.
Italy’s middle distance prospects continue through to the 3000m steeplechase in which they field the two fastest entrants on paper in Ahmed Abdelwahed and Osama Zoghlami, who finished sixth and seventh in Rome in 8:10.29 and 8:11.00 respectively.
But they will be wary of the presence of France’s Djilali Bedrani, who finished fourth in the 2018 European Championships and was fifth at the World Athletics Championships the following year.
Bedrani has only run 8:26.18 so far this year but the potential is obvious. He could very possibly keep the title in French hands with four-time champion Mahiedine Mekhissi ruled out of the championships due to injury.
Others to look out for include home runner Frederik Ruppert, who has clocked 8:15.58 this year, Spain’s Daniel Arce, who has a 2022 personal best of 8:14.31 and Bedrani’s compatriot Mehdi Belhadj, who has clocked 8:16.35 this season.