Josh Kerr in action at the Muller British Champs in Manchester (photo by Getty Images via British Athletics)
It’s almost time!
The athletics action in Japan is ever closer with the action at the Olympic Games finally set to begin – five years after Rio.
We are thrilled to have a dozen Scots involved within the Team GB and NI selection of 77 athletes in track, field and marathon and, over the past couple of weeks have turned the spotlight on our #TokyoTwelve.
Our final piece today looks at Josh Kerr who, in an interview with AW, speaks bullishly about his 1500m medal chances with the candid Edinburgh AC athlete adamant all he wants out of Tokyo is to contest the podium.
And we’ve more on Eilish McColgan as she prepares for a distance double with multiple laps of the track required to compete in 5000m and then the 10,000m – on the Tokyo stage that means so much to her 1991 World champion mum, Liz.
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When it comes to his chances in the Olympic 1500m final, Josh Kerr pulls no punches. The 23-year-old Brit is going to Tokyo to win a medal – ideally gold – and he believes everything in his life so far has led to this moment.
‘I’m an athlete who focuses on getting medals,’ Josh told Athletics Weekly.
‘I’m not here to try to race a million times a year and to make lots of money on appearance fees and all that stuff. I’m here to make medals.
‘And for me to make a medal in Tokyo I need to be in shape to run sub-3:30 in the Olympic final.
‘I look no further than August 7. My year will probably end on that day due to the fact that I’m throwing my whole life at this race.
This has been a build-up that started when I was about nine years old for this specific situation and this race.
‘People keep asking me what I want to do afterwards and if I want to run fast and I’m like ‘No, I want to throw every single thing that I’ve got at this championships” and then we can see what happens and learn from it.
Kerr exudes confidence and does not mince his words. There will be no soft medals in the men’s 1500m at the Games.
World champion Timothy Cheruiyot of Kenya is expected to set a furious pace from the front. Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway has been in terrific form this year.
Olympic champion Matt Centrowitz of the United States naturally aspires to defend his title. Then there is US champion Cole Hocker, fast-finishing Polish runner Marcin Lewandowski, in-form Australian duo Stewart McSweyn and Oliver Hoare, plus Kerr’s team-mate Jake Wightman of course.
Kerr knows this, though. Yet he relishes the challenge and adds: ‘The major championships is where I live. It’s where I peak and what I go for.
‘I don’t care if you go and run the trials and don’t make the team and then two weeks later you run 3:28. That’s still a failed year for me.
‘I’m coming into some phenomenal shape and coming into the best shape I can to go out and try to add to the medal tally for Team GB. But, after August 7, I cannot imagine I’ll be racing.’
Athletics fans in Scotland need no reminder that, 30 years ago next month, in the searing heat and humidity of Tokyo, Liz McColgan clinched 1991 World Championship gold over 10,000m.
But the presence of her daughter, Eilish, in the same event will provide a very graphic ‘jog’ to the memory, in any case.
Eilish has arrived in the Japanese capital to compete for GB and NI at her third Olympics – and is doubling up over 5000m and then the 10,000m.
McColgan junior has faced an array of challenges throughout her career, from serious injury to loss of funding, a change in events and what her mother and coach describes as ‘health issues’.
Yet, aged 30, she has roared into form as the Games loom, shattering Paula Radcliffe‘s 5,000m British record – a benchmark that had stood for 17 years.
Thirty years ago, in Tokyo, Liz McColgan laid waste to her rivals and became 10,000m world champion.
Three decades on, her daughter Eilish will be in the Japanese capital competing in the same event – and the 5,000m – at the Olympic Games 👇
— BBC Sport Scotland (@BBCSportScot) July 20, 2021
‘It was like a coming of age, all that hard work and all the disappointments,’ said mum/coach Liz, a former Commonwealth champion and Olympic silver medallist.
‘Eilish is world class. She has just shown people how good she is. I have believed all along; but others haven’t.’
Having competing at London 2012 – her first Olympics – as a steeplechaser, McColgan switched to focus on the 10,000m and 5,000m.
But in the lead-up to Rio 2016, she spent 18 months side-lined by an ankle injury and a host of related health issues.
‘I think a lot of people would have given up but, Eilish being Eilish, she has just battled against it. It shows that through determination, you can still achieve great things.’