Made in Scotland from girders: How Josh had the bottle to battle Jakob

Friday 25th August 2023

Budapest photo by Getty Images for World Athletics 

Josh claims Men’s 1500m gold at World Champs 

By Peter Jardine, Head of Communications

The second semi-final of the Men’s 1500m was nearing a conclusion in Budapest when Jakob Ingebrigtsen felt the need to exhort the Hungarian crowd for more support. Or maybe even adulation.

Jakob surged by contenders out in lane three, turned his head towards the stands and flapped his arms up and down in a gesture which drew echoes of Steve Ovett’s frequent victory wave (long before the finishing line) back in the day.

It was a marmite moment in some ways. Many believe Ingebrigtsen is good for the sport and, after a dozen 1500m victories in a row in the Diamond League as well as an Olympic title, he’s entitled to behave how he likes and like how he behaves. Others are not quite so keen.

In the stadium’s Mixed Zone, Josh Kerr was asked his thoughts on Jakob’s antics.

‘Well, I was ahead of him at the time . . .’

There, in that split second and with a mischievous smile breaking across his features, the feeling surfaced that Josh had the self-belief required to take on the seemingly untouchable Norwegian. In short: he for one would not be beaten before he started.

Make no mistake, this happens in sport and psychology plays a huge part. But the 25-year-old Scot, who grew up in Edinburgh, honed his race craft in New Mexico and is coached by Danny Mackey, had the required bottle.

And so it proved that Scotland defeated Norway on the World Champs track for the second time in 12 months.

BBC Scotland feature and interview

Shades of glory . . . Budapest photo by Gary Mitchell

Josh by his own declaration is a confident guy. That approach has served him well over a number of years and arguably developed as he conquered the collegiate scene in America.

Those who have followed his career closely will recall how successful he was on the NCAA circuit, winning titles indoors and out and setting NCAA Records.

In that semi-final, Jakob pushed beyond Josh for a 1-2 finish in a quick race. The positions were not important and, of course, they were to be reversed when it mattered in the final.

‘With 50m to go, I kind of broke him and it was just about holding form at that point,’ said Josh after his 3:29.38 success.

‘I’d be proud – giving everything in that situation – if it was gold, silver or bronze. I’ve had the bronze and the gold is sweeter.’

Jakob, for his part, later told the Norwegian media he wasn’t feeling well on the day of the final, claiming he was 88 percent fit and had he been 92 percent fit he would have won.

We will know soon enough if he withdraws from the 5000m. He was notably missing for the traditional lap of honour by medallists and Jake Wightman highlighted the lack of manners.

Josh, meanwhile, found himself being asked questions (from the Backstraight Boys podcast) about 13th century Scottish history.

Interviewer: ‘Josh, I’ve been looking up history and the Scotland v Norway War lasted from 1262 to 1266. Why are you and Jake trying to re-ignite it?’

Josh, with superb diplomacy, replied: ‘Listen, we are just putting in a lot of hard work over many, many years and being World Champion was a long time coming for both of us . . . ‘


It was the photo that broke the Internet. Well, in Scottish Athletics social media terms, anyway.

Our Tweet with the 2010 image of a very young Josh Kerr and Jake Wightman swiftly became our own ‘Personal Best’ with the number of views hitting 350,000 in just over 12 hours.

(Over a 24-hour period, the Tweets from our Scottish Athletics account reached half a million people).

Social media officer Sue Gyford applied some clever tagging on the ‘back in the day one’ and had a decent ‘strike rate’ in the BBC Studio in Budapest with Jake himself, Michael Johnson and Gabby Logan both reacting to our original Tweet.

It’s a photo which underlines the great truism in athletics: there is no such thing as overnight success.

And Josh himself backed that up emphatically in his BBC interview immediately after the race as he said: ‘I’ve been working for 16 years towards this.’

Many across Edinburgh AC (Eric Fisher, Dave Campbell and others) as well as Scottish Schools and so on will this week be cherishing their memories of two World Champions in their formative years.

Rightly so and it is all about having a pathway that creates the opportunity for elite athletes to develop.

Josh with his first coach at Edinburgh AC, Eric Fisher (photo by Gary Leek)

Welcome home! Josh returns to Edinburgh AC with Olympic medal (September 2021)


Photo by Bobby Gavin

Stephen Maguire, formerly of this parish, is leading the GB and NI delegation in Budapest as befits his role as Head of Performance with UK Athletics.

It’s a tough job and there has been criticism around the team size and the issue of World Athletics invitations. But the medal count is rising.

Stephen had two spells in a similar role with Scottish Athletics. The first was circa 2014 as he led the Team Scotland track and field team into the Commonwealths at Hampden.

The second came after the 2018 Commonwealth Games before being tempted (again) by UK Athletics.

This correspondent this week remembers of couple of Maguire mantras – one from each spell.

*Josh Kerr can be a world-beater

*Alyson Bell could be a top sprinter

Stephen had huge admiration for the way Josh took on America in the NCAA scene and progressed after winning the Euro U20 title. A few years later, with his sprints background, Stephen saw something in a very young Alyson that suggested exciting potential.

Mystic Maguire . . .


Scotland teams Mini Marathon

Josh in the Scotland U15 Mini Marathon team back in 2012 when he finished fifth

Josh has been a regular medallist throughout his career – starting from U13s with Edinburgh AC – and across track and field, cross country and road racing.

But, even almost a decade ago, the road to glory didn’t run smoothly.

He was picked for the London Mini Marathon a couple of times and finished in 20th place as a first year U17 in April 2014 (with the elder Jake Wightman at that point seeking Commonwealth Games qualification for Hampden).

A year later, in March 2015 at Battery Park in Greenock, Josh finished eighth in the U17 Men’s race at our Young Athletes Road Races – and thus missed selection for the Mini Marathon.

As it transpired, it was something of a turning point and soon he was headed to America.

The moral of the story is there are always pitfalls along the way. Laura Muir missed Scottish Schools XC selection two years in a row in her mid to late teens.

So, for all our young athletes who maybe did not PB or make the final or make the podium at our Age Groups in Aberdeen or U17s at Grangemouth, please don’t be disheartened. With solid training, family support and good coaching, better performances will come.

And, in the meantime, everyone has a role to play in the ‘eco-system’.


Tags: Jake Wightman, Josh Kerr, London Mini Marathon

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