(11-Jun) -- In beautiful weather in Bislett Stadium in Oslo tonight, meeting director Steinar Hoen pulled of a small miracle: a high-level athletics meeting during a global pandemic. The first --and hopefully last-- Impossible Games were staged as a socially-distanced, made-for-television athletics meeting with a limited slate of 13 events,45 athletes, and just a handful of in-stadium fans. Six of the competitors competed remotely from other countries by video link.
PHOTO: Jakob Ingebrigtsen setting the European record for 2000m at the Impossible Games in Oslo (photo by Eirik Førde for the Bislett Alliance via Wanda Diamond League)
The result? A thoroughly entertaining meeting which featured some remarkable performances led by Norway's Karsten Warholm's sizzling world best of 33.78 in the rarely-run 300m hurdles. Warholm's mark was all the more impressive given that he was the only athlete on the track. He attacked the race right from the gun with long, powerful strides.
"I compete against myself in training every day, so I'm very used to it and I'm my biggest competitor; it's me and the timer," Warholm told meeting organizers. "I love doing this and it's better doing it alone than not at all."
In the men's 1000m, Filip Ingebrigtsen surpassed Vebjørn Rodal's 1996 Norwegian record on the strength of his homestretch sprint, slipping under Rodal's mark by 32/100ths of a second in 2:16.46. He was the only finisher out of four starters; the other three were essentially pacemakers.
"First of all, it's just a confirmation that what I've worked on the past year is paying off," Ingebrigtsen said. "Last year was more a 1500m/5-K focus and trying to build as good a foundation as possible for my endurance. This year is more specific to 1500m training, so I've done a bit more speed work so I can try to break the 3:30 limit."
About 45 minutes later, Ingebrigtsen joined his brothers Henrik and Jakob and two other athletes and competed in a special 2000m team competition against another five-man team led by world 1500m champions Timothy Cheruiyot and Elijah Manangoi who competed in an empty stadium in Nairobi. The Norwegian squad had the advantage of competing in nice weather at sea level, while the Kenyans competed in windy and rainy conditions at about 2000m of altitude.
Although the Norwegians routed the Kenyans, 14:40.64 to 15:34.80 based on the total time of the three finishers from each team, the real story was Jakob Ingebrigtsen's European record of 4:50.01 at the front, eclipsing Steve Cram's 1985 mark of 4:51.39 set in Budapest. Henrik was close behind in 4:53.72, and an exhausted Filip clocked 4:56.91 for third place.
"I'm really happy with the European record," said Jakob who is only 19. "We tried to go sub-five minutes and we felt pretty good. I've done a lot of good training over the last week. I had to go for it on the last lap, though."
Marathoner Sondre Nordstad Moen closed the meet with a terrific solo run over 25,000m. Running aggressively, but not over his head, he split 10,000m in 28:37.9, 20,000m in 57:55.0, and hit the finish after 62 and one-half laps in 1:12:46.5 the #2 mark of all-time, smashing the European record of 1:13:57.6 held by the late Stéphane Franke of Germany from 1999. His 20,000m time and one-hour distance (20703m) were also Norwegian records.
"It was tough!" Moen exclaimed. "I felt comfortable at 10, 12-K. We set the pace we would have liked for the European Record for 20-K (57:18.4), so the plan was to go for that, too. I even hoped we might be able to push for the 25-K world record."
But the final kilometers were tough. His last 5-kilometers were completed in 14:52, about four seconds slower per kilometer than his pace through 20-K.
"It wasn't easy to stay relaxed," Moen admitted. "At 21/22-K I started to feel a bit tired, but by then I knew I was far within the European Record for 25-K so I did what I promised."
On the women's side, the middle and long distance results were less impressive. In the 600m, Norway's Hedde Hynne beat Switzerland's Selina Büchel, 1:29.06 to 1:30.10. The race was run the entire way in lanes, and since Büchel couldn't see Hynne behind her, she took off too quickly and suffered in the final 100m after Hynne passed her on the inside. Norwegian star Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdahl failed to finish the 3000m (citing an unspecified injury), and three-time Olympic cross country skiing medalist Therese Johaug ran a personal best in the 10,000m of 31:40.67 running the entire way alone. Johaug has a lot of fans due to her skiing exploits, but missed the 2018 Olympics after testing positive for steroids which were contained in a lip ointment she used.
The official opening of the Wanda Diamond League is the Herculis meeting in Monaco on Friday, August 14, assuming conditions allow.