George Mills earns 5000m silver behind imperious Jakob Ingebrigtsen – AW

    Norwegian has an extra gear in the final 100m but British runner enjoys a podium position at the European Champs in Rome on Saturday

    Moments after the 5000m at the European Championships in Rome, Jack Buckner came bounding out of the hospitality area with his long-standing championship record of 13:10.15 from 1986 still intact. “Forty years,”  smiled the now UK Athletics chief executive, referring to the fact it will be that old when the next Europeans are staged in Birmingham in two years’ time.

    In a slow and tactical final in the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday (June 8), neither Jakob Ingebrigtsen with 13:20.11 nor runner-up George Mills with 13:21.38 managed to beat it. On this evidence, though, Mills has the potential to not only break this record at Birmingham 2026 but even Mo Farah’s British record of 12:53.11 one day.

    For a rookie 5000m runner, Mills ran with power and confidence as he negotiated a messy race to put himself on Ingebrigtsen’s shoulder with 200m to go. For a moment there were shades of the world 1500m victories by Jake Wightman and Josh Kerr. But it was not to be for Mills. “Ingebrigtsen is world class and he just had another gear in the home straight,” shrugged the Briton as he weighed up the bittersweet feelings.

    Still, it was a performance rich in promise for a runner who was only racing his third major 5000m race. Almost 12 months ago to the day he made his serious track debut over 12-and-a-half laps with a well-beaten 13:18.33 in Paris. He then enjoyed a breakthrough run with 12:58.68 indoors in Boston in January. All this from a runner who started out as an 800m competitor, with European under-18 gold over two laps in 2016.

    Mills showed in Rome he has the ability to win world and Olympic medals. He is not the finished article, either. An athlete on the rise, he knows there is more to come as he thrives in the On Athletics Club Europe under coach Thomas Dreissigacker.

    George Mills (Getty)

    For now, though, Ingebrigtsen reigns supreme. The Norwegian is aiming to seal his third consecutive 1500m and 5000m double at the European Championships. The first victory under his belt, he now goes into the 1500m as strong favourite.

    Ingebrigtsen was content to sit at the back in the early stages as the 27-strong field dawdled a little through the opening laps. Around a mile into the race one of the Brits, Jack Rowe, was tripped and fell. He got back up and finished 17th in 13:31.77 – a reasonable result in the circumstances – whereas team-mate James West finished seventh in 13:24.80 after being left for pace a little in the final couple of laps. This was not surprising given that Ingebrigtsen, who had by that stage moved up to control the race, clipped them off in 1:52.

    Behind Ingebrigtsen and Mills, Dominic Lobalu, a Sudanese refugee who runs for Switzerland, won bronze followed by Adel Mechaal of Spain and Thierry Ndikumwenayo of Spain.

    The night belonged to Ingebrigtsen and Mills mainly, however, although neither were in the mood to celebrate. Ingebrigtsen did a limited number of interviews before escaping to recover and prepare for the 1500m, the heats of which start on Monday morning, whereas Mills said he would not really be celebrating as he had plenty more races to come this summer. “I might have a kombucha,” he smiled, referring to his favourite fermented tea drink.

    He added: “My dad will be really pleased with this but I wanted more.”

    The 25-year-old was referring to Danny, the former England international footballer, who travels to watch him at most of his races and even sometimes joins his altitude camps. “I played here twice [with Leeds United],” said Mills senior, “but I was on the bench both times. We drew with Roma and beat Lazio, so it’s not been a bad place for the Mills family.”

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