Olympic 1500m champion Jakob and brothers Henrik and Filip make extraordinary accusations toward their father and former coach, Gjert, which he denies
The simmering tension in the Ingebrigtsen family and coaching changes made in 2022 have finally been explained in a hard-hitting article published in the VG newspaper in Norway where Jakob, Henrik and Filip Ingebrigtsen have accused their father, Gjert, of abusive behaviour.
The brothers have all won European 1500m titles with Jakob going further by claiming Olympic 1500m gold in 2021 and world 5000m crowns in 2022 and 2023. Much of this was under the guidance of Gjert, but the athletes decided to go their own way at the beginning of last year – with Henrik largely coaching Jakob during the past 18 months – and they have now called on the Norwegian athletics federation to avoid putting them in situations in which they will have to face “a father we do not have the capacity or desire to deal with”.
Gjert, meanwhile, denies the allegations and turned his coaching attentions to Narve Gilje Nordås in recent seasons. Nordas has been coached for Gjert for several seasons and has improved his 1500m best from 3:49.64 in 2019 and 3:39.15 in 2020 to 3:36.23 in 2022 and 3:29.47 in 2023.
In the world 1500m final in Budapest this summer he finished strongly to snatch bronze just three hundreds of a second behind Jakob as Josh Kerr took gold. “If the race had been 50 metres further,” he said, “I would have won.”
Nordås puts his improvement down to the same “Norwegian system” of training that Gjert used with his sons to great success. This involves high mileage, ‘double threshold sessions’ and weekly hill sprints to maintain speed.
Last year the Ingebrigtsens announced Gjert was stepping down as their coach for medical reasons but it emerged there was a bitter family rift and rumours circulated that they were unhappy with abusive behaviour that took place when they were teenagers. Subsequently Gjert was denied a coaching accreditation for the World Championships in Budapest and was not present at Jakob’s wedding last month to his long-time partner Elisabeth Asserson.
In the VG article the brothers wrote: “When we broke up with Gjert, we thought we would be able to handle the situation in an orderly manner, without mentioning the underlying circumstances. We now realise that is not possible. This matter has become so inflamed and has had such a great consequence that we feel a responsibility to clean it up.
“We have grown up with a father who has been very aggressive and controlling and who has used physical violence and threats as part of his upbringing. We still feel discomfort and fear which has been in us since childhood.
“Somehow we have accepted this. We have lived with it, and in adulthood we have moved on. At least we thought so. In retrospect, we realise that it was naive. But two years ago, the same aggression and physical punishment struck again. It was the drop that made the cup run over.”
They added: “Now the situation is unbearable. The pressure we have felt has been inhumane at times. We run out of energy and the joy of playing sports is gone.”
It is unclear as to what kind of violence has been used or whether Ingrid Ingebrigtsen, their 17-year-old sister who was once touted as a potential female running star, was at the receiving end of the alleged abuse.
The family is fairly used to their ups and downs being played out publicly. In addition to their performances on the track receiving a high level of scrutiny, from 2016 to 2021 they featured in a documentary series on NRK TV in Norway called Team Ingebrigtsen.
A candid and revealing series, it gave an insight into the challenging environment they grew up in, which included multiple arguments which unfolded in front of the cameras.
Gjert denied the allegations of abuse via a statement issued by his lawyer. “The statements they make are baseless,” it read. “I have never used violence against my children. That I have weaknesses as a father, and have been too much of a coach, is a realisation I have also come to, albeit far too late.
READ MORE: How Josh Kerr won world 1500m gold
“Our family has lived in the public spotlight for many years, and we have chosen to let the public into our lives through TV series, interviews and much more. That violence should have occurred in this public family life is unthinkable. The Norwegian people have seen our lives, for better or worse.
“I am far from perfect as a father and husband, but I am not violent. First of all, this is a tragic situation for my family — that we have come to the point where we are spreading false accusations against each other in the media. It makes me deeply unhappy. How we are going to get past this I don’t know, but we have to try.”
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