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Marauding Norwegian Vikings vow to maul star-studded Kenyans

9

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By AYUMBA AYODI

In debunking Norwegian myths, archeologists and other researchers seem to concur that no, the Vikings never wore horned helmets.

We are told that it’s actually Carl Emil Doepler, a German illustrator and costume designer – who lived between 1824 and 1905 – that created the horned helmets in the 1870s to depict Viking characters.

But the character of the Vikings is never in doubt.

They are integral to Norwegian, and Scandinavian, culture: Aggressive raiders who doubled up as traders, and also explorers, that criss-crossed the Atlantic and went as far as Russia and the Caspian Sea on trade missions.

Little wonder one of Norway’s top football clubs from the city of Stavanger took up the name “Viking” to become Viking Stavanger, probably to scare away opponents.

Viking Stavanger are eight-time Norwegian champions and regular campaigners in the Uefa Champions League, their Viking-like aggression having seen them famously them knock English Premier League giants Chelsea out of the Uefa Cup (now Europa League) in the 2002-03 season.

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They reached the group stages of Europe’s second-tier tournament two seasons later.

Horned helmets aside, now the Norwegians want to debunk another myth: That world-class middle and long distance runners only come from East Africa.

They want to show that Vikings can attack more ferociously than their Kenyan equivalent, the Masai.

That’s one of the principle reasons that the Ingebrigtsen brothers have teamed up for tonight’s virtual challenge against a Kenyan team of world-beaters anchored by Bomet County’s world 1,500 metres champion Timothy “Chariot of Fire” Cheruiyot and featuring the Commonwealth champion over the distance, Elijah “Lion” Manang’oi, a Masai warrior from Ntulele, Narok.

The Norwegians are gloating ahead of Thursday’s “Team Team Ingebrigtsen” vs “Team Cheruiyot” virtual race, named the “Maurie Plant Memorial” after the former Australian agent, manager, organiser and broadcaster Maurie Plant who died on January 19. He was 66.

Sandnes, the seventh largest city in Norway, just south of Stavanger, has been the training hideout for the Norwegian Ingebrigtsen brothers – Jakob, Filip and Henrik – as they prepare for Thursday’s duel that will be run over 2,000 metres.

The “Vikings” have been training at their home town since the lockdown on March 12 owing to Covid-19 pandemic. Sandnes is situated at sea level and lies 305 kilometres South West of Norway’s capital, Oslo.

The Ingebrigtsens, who will be joined by fellow Norwegians Narve Gilje Nordås and Per Svela in “Team Ingebrigtsen”, will race at the Bislett Stadium in Oslo, the traditional venue for the annual Diamond League meeting, popularly known as the Bislett Games.

“Team Cheruiyot” will line up at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium, which is basking in the glory of a new face-lift.

“Team Cheruiyot” includes 2017 and 2019 world champions over 1,500, Manang’oi and Cheruiyot along with Edwin Melly, Vincent Keter and Timothy Sein.

All 10 runners will start at once and three must finish from each team. The team with the fastest cumulative time from their top-three runners wins the battle between Norway and Kenya.

“We stayed away from other people the whole period of the lockdown, which is still the case now,” said 19-year-old Jakob, who is the reigning European 1,500m and 5,000m champion.

The Ingebrigtsens have a training facility – complete with treadmills and weights – at the basement of their parents’ house.

The sort of discreet assembly the Vikings of old adopted before launching their ferocious attacks. Or so we are told. The trio’s father, Gjert Ingebrigtsen, is their coach, making tonight’s an intensely family matter besides being a national affair.

“In general, we have been training very well,” Jakob exclusively told Nation Sport, but hastened to add that lack of altitude training could affect the race.

“Concerning the altitude, we shall know more about this after the performance.”

Jakob explained that it will be exciting to face the “Team Cheruiyot” challenge and measure up against the Kenyan stars.

“It will feel like running in one of the most important races in the season, with the best runners in the world,” explained Jakob.

“In this difficult Covid-19 situation in the world, this is also an incredible opportunity which we really look forward to.”

Jakob said they are delighted to be able to run in a proper athletics stadium again as they brace up for the resumption of the Diamond League and launch of the new World Athletics Continental Tour in August.

“We will be more ready than ever before,” added Jakob.

“That is why we want to make Maurie Plant Memorial look like proper championships by striving to be as sharp and fast as possible.”

Jakob and Henrik are fresh from downing the Norwegian five-kilometre Road Race record of 13:37 during the Sondre Nordstad Moen on May 20 this year in Stavanger.

Jakob won the race in 13:28, setting the ball rolling ahead of the Maurie Plant Memorial Race, while Henrik also dipped inside the old record, finishing in 13:32. 

That is the incredible form “Team Ingebrigtsen” will be taking to the race where they will also have their eyes trailing the European record of 4:51.39 held by Steve Cram. Incidentally, Cram, the 1983 world and 1986 Commonwealth Games’ 1,500m champion, will be commentating on the race that will be televised to an action-starved global audience from 9:50pm, Kenyan time on SuperSport.

But it won’t just be the clash over 2,000 metres. Several other big names will compete at the meeting, also known as the “Impossible Games.”

In the pole vault, Mondo Duplantis will take on his predecessor as world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie.

World champion Daniel Stahl will compete in the discus, while two-time world 400m hurdles champion Karsten Warholm will attempt to break the world best in the 300m hurdles.

The women’s rarely-run 300m hurdles will be a three-way clash between European champion Lea Sprunger, Olympic silver medallist Sara Slott Petersen and Norwegian record-holder Amalie Iuel.

Will the Vikings take the Kenyan warriors? Let’s wait and see.

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CORONAVIRUS CASES

Live Updates COVID-19 CASES
  • World 18,699,432
    World
    Confirmed: 18,699,432
    Active: 6,080,320
    Recovered: 11,914,788
    Death: 704,324
  • USA 4,918,420
    USA
    Confirmed: 4,918,420
    Active: 2,276,450
    Recovered: 2,481,680
    Death: 160,290
  • South Africa 521,318
    South Africa
    Confirmed: 521,318
    Active: 148,683
    Recovered: 363,751
    Death: 8,884
  • Nigeria 44,433
    Nigeria
    Confirmed: 44,433
    Active: 11,672
    Recovered: 31,851
    Death: 910
  • Kenya 23,202
    Kenya
    Confirmed: 23,202
    Active: 13,487
    Recovered: 9,327
    Death: 388
  • Australia 18,730
    Australia
    Confirmed: 18,730
    Active: 7,876
    Recovered: 10,622
    Death: 232
  • South Sudan 2,437
    South Sudan
    Confirmed: 2,437
    Active: 1,215
    Recovered: 1,175
    Death: 47
  • Uganda 1,203
    Uganda
    Confirmed: 1,203
    Active: 125
    Recovered: 1,073
    Death: 5
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