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The abuse scandal surrounding the father of Norway’s Olympic hero Ingebrigtsen

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The abuse scandal surrounding the father of Norway’s Olympic hero Ingebrigtsen
Three of the Ingebrigsten borther's have accused their father of abuse. File photo: Norway's Jakob Ingebrigtsen celebrates as he wins the Men 2000m event of the Brussels IAAF Diamond League athletics meeting on September 8, 2023. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)

Norwegian police said on Thursday they had opened an investigation into accusations of abuse made by Olympic 1500m champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen and his brothers Henrik and Filip against their father Gjert.

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"We have carried out several preliminary investigations and the information that emerged has led to the opening of an enquiry, said police inspector Terese Braut Vage.

The aim is to determine whether criminal offences have been committed," she added in a statement.

The Ingebrigtsen brothers said in a joint article in Norwegian daily VG last week: "We grew up with a very aggressive and authoritarian father, who used physical violence and threats as part of his upbringing.

"We still feel a sense of discomfort and fear that we have felt since childhood," they added.

Their father, who strongly denies the accusations, coached the Ingebrigtsen brothers up to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo (held in 2021), where the youngest Jakob, 23, won gold in the men's 1500m.

They claimed that their father had become aggressive again two years ago. 

"We had more or less accepted that. 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," they said of the split.

"But two years ago, the same aggression and physical punishment happened again. That was the last straw.

"From that moment on, we decided to break with our father. It then became impossible for us to continue working with him as a coach."

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Gjert Ingebrigtsen's lawyer has said the Norwegian police's decision was "not unexpected".

"My client is confident about the outcome of the investigation," said John Christian Elden, whilst also stressing that it was his client's "only opportunity to prove his innocence".

In a 2019 interview with British newspaper the Daily Telegraph, Gjert stated: "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."

Reacting to the accusations made in the press by his sons, he said in a message sent by his lawyer that he had "never resorted to violence".

Jakob Ingebrigtsen is the most successful of the three brothers, twice winning gold in the world championships 5000m in 2022 and 2023, as well as the
Olympic 1500m gold.

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Henrik, 32, and Filip, 30, were European champions in the 1500m in 2012 and 2016 respectively.

After breaking with his sons, Gjert Ingebrigtsen shocked Norwegian athletics by becoming the trainer of another runner, Narve Gilje Nordås.

The partnership has provoked tensions between the latter and the Ingebrigtsen brothers, as well as within the Norwegian Athletics Association.

Gjert Ingebrigtsen has been denied accreditation by the Norwegian Athletics Association for the World Indoor Championships next March in Glasgow and for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

The brothers said that talking out about their father to VG had been “painful in many ways” because he had “meant a lot to us and our careers,” but they felt compelled to share their history because the family feud had been in the media for so long.

“We have never wanted private details of our family situation to be laid out in Norwegian media, and we’re sorry that it affects others,” the brothers wrote. They said they wanted “calm for all involved, therefore we’re telling our story. It hurts, but we don’t see any other way out.”

The father and brothers starred in the Team Ingebrigtsen TV series that ran on public broadcaster NRK. The show ran from 2016 until 2021. 

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