Mike Rowbottom

Apart from forecasting rain in Sandnes last weekend it was also possible to foresee a squall of family rows as a number of small, excited boys left the Extra supermarket with arms signed by the store’s illustrious sporting regulars - the Ingebrigtsen brothers.

In the hours that followed the local heroes’ publicity event for the European Athletics Team Championships First League, baths and showers were doubtless being resisted in many of the neat, weather-boarded houses that make up the port city on the south-west tip of Norway.

The betting was that many of those boys were also amid the throng of youngsters waiting for autographs at the Sandnes Stadium that lies just a few hundred metres from the Ingebrigtsen family home after a second day of competition on which Filip and Jakob had won the 5,000 and 1500 metres events respectively - and as they pleased.

Elder brother Henrik, now 28, first brought the family name to renown in winning the 2012 European 1500m, a title that was taken up by Filip, now 26, in 2016, before residing with Jakob, now 18, who won an extraordinary 1500m/5000m double at last summer’s European Championships in Berlin.

Under the ironclad guidance of their father and coach, Gjert - pronounced “Yatt” - the three sibling athletes, who are three of seven children, have arrived at the point where new records and successes are expected every time they set foot on the track.

Jakob Ingebrigtsen gets an impromptu autograph signing underway at his local store in Sandnes ©ITG
Jakob Ingebrigtsen gets an impromptu autograph signing underway at his local store in Sandnes ©ITG

Having conquered Europe, their aspirations are now global, and the International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships, due to take place in Doha from September 28 to October 6, loom in their collective consciousness.

That collectivity is underlined by the transport that delivers a significant section of the Ingebrigtsen clan to the doors of their local store in a small industrial park. Each of the sponsored Mercedes cars carries the logo - "Team Ingebrigtsen - Das Beste oder nichts"

And out they variously get. Henrik, with his wife and two young children, arrives first, taking the opportunity to buy a few household items. "This is my local grocery store," he says with a grin, his face unobscured by the sunglasses he always wears to race.

Next thing another car is there. Filip and Gjert are now in-store. Last comes Jakob - and you don’t see that sentence often. He is driving his own, yellow (golden?), Mercedes.

Soon an invited gathering of two Norwegian TV crews and assorted written journalists are involved in a brief press announcement during which the brothers, along with fellow athlete Amalie Iuel, a highly promising 400m hurdler, are established in front of a table full of produce in the middle of the store as mildly surprised shoppers edge past to reach the frozen goods.

Inevitably, people gather. It feeels a bit like that old footage of The Beatles playing on the roof-top of the Apple Corps office in Savile Row, London, drawing more and more incredulous attention, stopping traffic and pedestrians, before being sheepishly closed down by the Metropolitan Police.

Have you seen who's here? - the numbers grow for a low-key Ingebrigtsen press event ©ITG
Have you seen who's here? - the numbers grow for a low-key Ingebrigtsen press event ©ITG

Not saying the Ingebrigtsens are as big as The Beatles. Yet. But two series of documentaries, entitled, inevitably, Team Ingebrigtsen, aired in Norway but widely available on You Tube with English sub-titles, have ensured that this is a family with an increasingly high profile. And unlike other such families you could mention, they actually work to deserve it.

The Extra tie-in is explained by the fact that they are one of the official sponsors of Norway’s athletes - which, in this context, created some potential reverberations with Spar, official sponsors of European Athletics.

All family members were relaxed and polite, chatting at length to all who requested. That said, I’m struggling to think of a single Norwegian encountered on a six-day trip that wasn’t.

Gjert - sorry, Yatt - was watchful and to the point, but happy to discuss this season’s progress in broad terms, and also the possibility of one or other of his brood earning themselves a stadium record in the arena at the end of their garden.

"We are in the middle of a training period," he said. "We had a few competitions in June and July and we will go back to it in a few weeks. But I’m sure the boys will do very well."

They did, although Henrik had to settle for second place in the last day’s 3,000m and the wait for those stadium records goes on…

"I’m on a very good path," said Jakob, holding his ground with a faint grin as the crowd of eager would-be-autographees jostled in front of him. "For now I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do.  I haven’t had any injuries, so I’m in a really good place to be able to be in great shape for Doha."

The Brothers Ingebrigtsen - from left, Filip, Henrik and Jakob - prepare to do their thing for Norwegian TV ©ITG
The Brothers Ingebrigtsen - from left, Filip, Henrik and Jakob - prepare to do their thing for Norwegian TV ©ITG

As a character, Filip has slightly less of an edge than his younger sibling, who has projected himself into the vanguard of world athletics, and all its attendant pressure, with his efforts in the last two years.

On the dynamic that has sustained their competitive efforts down the years, Filip reflected: "We all help each other. We all set the bar - and it keeps on going higher and higher."

Speaking two days later after completing a celebratory circuit of his familiar track in front of full and adoring stands, he recalled a comment on that topic:  "As Sebastian Coe’s father, Peter, said once, the best warm down is to do a 400m lap of honour…"

So would victory on home ground be earning him or his sibs any rewards from their father/coach?

"You don’t get a day off," he said with a smile. "Maybe just an easy run in the afternoon…"