Road to Doha: In Manangoi’s absence, who will reign supreme in 1,500m?
It seems wrong to describe Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen as a wunderkind, because even though he only turned 19 on 19 September, he has the attitude – and indeed competitive record – of a highly experienced senior athlete.
He won the European 1500m and 5000m titles in masterful style in Berlin last summer, and added continental 3000m gold and 1500m silver at this year’s European Indoor Championships in Glasgow.
And the youngest of the three Ingebrigtsen brothers who have adorned the track in recent years – Filip and Henrik preceded him as European 1500m champions – is unequivocal about his new ambitions. They’re global.
“I definitely hope that Team Ingebrigtsen can break the African dominance,” he told the Norwegian daily Dagbladet in Berlin. “Filip has taken a step into that company with his World Championships medal last year, so we are on our way.”
The late news that Kenya’s Elijah Manangoi will be unable to defend his title at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 after injuring an ankle in training has altered the complexion of the event – but it is still a fearsomely competitive one.
Manangoi’s younger brother George, born just over a month later than Ingebrigtsen, will carry the family name in Doha. He has a best of 3:31.49, as compared to Ingebrigtsen’s best of 3:30.16, set earlier this season at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne. But he knows how to beat his young Norwegian rival, having taken 1500m gold ahead of him at last year’s IAAF World U20 Championships in Tampere.
Meanwhile Timothy Cheruyiot, the current world champion’s training partner, and the man who took silver behind him in London two years ago, remains the clear favourite for the title given his transcendent form in the past two years.
He heads the 2019 world list with the 3:28.77 he recorded in beating young Ingebrigtsen in Lausanne, and he is on a long winning run.
Kenya will also be represented by the enigmatic Ronald Kwemoi, who has run 3:33.99 this season but clocked the world’s fastest U20 time of 3:28.81 in Monaco five years ago.
Naturally there will be other African contenders for one of the prized gems in athletics. Uganda’s Ronald Musagala is third in this season’s world list with a personal best of 3:30.58. Ethiopia will be fielding world indoor champion Samuel Tefara, still only 19, who is seventh on this year’s list with 3:31.39.
And it never does to rule out Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman, fifth on the 2019 list with 3:30.66, who is always there or thereabouts in major championships, having won world indoor gold in 2014 and world bronze a year earlier.
Europe’s challenge will not rest solely on Jakob’s young shoulders, of course. His 26-year-old brother Filip, who heads to Doha with a season’s best of 3:30.82, has had a smooth preparation and has already broken into the global medals, having taking bronze in London two years ago.
Britain’s Jake Wightman, who has a 2018 best of 3:33.96, already has Commonwealth and European bronze medals and would love to add a global medal to his collection.
The United States will be represented by a quartet including Olympic champion Matt Centrowitz.
Meanwhile, Poland’s flag will be flown by the wily competitor that is Marcin Lewandowski, who outfoxed Ingebrigtsen to the European indoor 1500m gold earlier this year. No runner can relax with him in the field.