Top Scots are World class – and global nature of athletics makes that tough

Tuesday 29th August 2023

Josh Kerr on top of the World Champs Men’s 1500m podium (photo by Getty Images for World Athletics)

Made in Scotland from girders: how Josh had the bottle for Jakob battle

By Peter Jardine, Head of Communications

So, with a thrilling World Champs in Budapest now concluded, the time is right for a few reflections on where our Scottish elite athletes stand globally.

The answer, of course, is right in the very top echelon.

Six athletes out of eight selected for GB and NI saw action in Hungary with Josh Kerr and Nicole Yeargin heading home with medals as precious cargo.

In a wider context, the performance of our four middle distance individual finalists is well worth noting:

*Josh Kerr Men’s 1500m: First

*Jemma Reekie Women’s 800m: Fifth

*Laura Muir Women’s 1500m: Sixth

*Neil Gourley Men’s 1500m: Ninth

So four Scots in top ten positions at the 2023 World Champs and here’s the rub – athletics is a truly global sport.

We are reliably informed that no fewer than 46 countries won medals in Budapest. That simply emphasises the reach of the sport and the level of competition.

Without entering into too much debate, would seriously doubt if that kind of depth applies across, say, swimming, cycling or curling.

The medals across these sports achieved are simply not ‘apples for apples’. The degree of difficulty is far higher in athletics and our top Scots are living with that breadth and depth every time they compete at elite level. They seem to be handling it rather well.


Photo by Mark Shearman

Relays generate excitement. And, for GB and NI, invariably medals.

Three bronzes out of a possible four was the overall team tally in the regular events (plus Mixed Relay silver) and our own Nicole Yeargin played a significant role in the Women’s 4x400m podium moment which topped off a fine championships.

Scotland’s National Record in the Women’s 4x400m stands at 3:29.18.

That time was set at the Commonwealth Games in 2018 with the team featuring London 2017 relay medallists Eilidh Doyle and Zoey Clark joined by Lynsey Sharp and Kirsten McAslan. Despite the Scottish Record, the team finished sixth at Gold Coast.

Ponder, then, the 3:21.04 time posted by Laviai Nielsen, Amber Anning, Ama Pipi and Nicole. It was the second fastest time ever by a GB and NI quartet.

Nicole’s own anchor leg split was 49.8 and she was involved in a three-way battle for gold, silver and bronze ultimately won by Holland’s remarkable Femke Bol.

America’s DQ in the heats was useful for GB, yes, but it was a superb team performance nonetheless (with Aberdeen AAC’s Roisin Harrison lining up for Ireland in the final).

The 4x400m is great theatre; athletes have to get changeovers right, the pacing right, be comfortable with leading or chasing and cope with the nerves of not letting down team-mates. It is multi-faceted.

GB and NI team leader Stephen Maguire, the former Scottish Athletics Head of Performance, has demonstrated once again his ability to foster the kind of team spirit that inspires athletes to deliver performances that are more than the sum of their parts.

Nicole Yeargin, with a personal four podiums in the row now for GB and for Team Scotland across 2022 and 2023, looks very capable of carrying the baton into the Olympics.


PB coverage on Josh Kerr stretches back eight years (at least) with piece on the left from 2015 and on the right from 2017

With no apologies, let’s return to World Champion Josh Kerr.

It has been fantastic to soak up the coverage and focus on Josh (and Edinburgh AC) since that marvellous win last midweek.

Our top stars merit attention and that’s why we often celebrate column inches, air-time, social media posts – and it all helps grow the profile of the athletes and indeed the sport.

Any impression – from those outside the sport, in fairness – that Josh is an overnight success is of course utter nonsense. He went to Budapest as an Olympic medallist from 2021 for goodness sake!

In fact, Josh’s trajectory has been steadily upwards . . .

*2012 – fifth place U15 at the London Mini Marathon

*2015 – European U20 1500m champion in Sweden

*2017 – NCAA 1500m champion in Eugene

*2019 – Sixth place at the World Champs at Doha

*2021 – Olympic bronze medal in Tokyo (as Jakob Ingebrigtsen wins).

That’s a pretty clear pathway and although Josh was disappointed with his 2022 season there seemed little doubt that his class (and dedication) would soon re-surface.

It’s worth highlighting again that Jake Wightman was also European U20 Champion (Jemma Reekie similarly at both U20 and U23 level). The routes to the top, and the staging posts along the way, are starkly apparent.


Grassroots never stops. It could be a new hashtag for athletics in Scotland to rival our #SALtogether.

As the track and field season draws towards a close this past weekend saw finals and relay medals in Budapest; Native Record and age group marks at the Monument Mile Classic; U20 Men’s 4x100m Relay Record and event wins in Wales; team victory for Scotland Women on the roads at the Antrim Half Marathon. There were England Athletics Age Group medals, too, for teenagers.

We love it and savour it all.

Big thank you to British Athletics comms team in Budapest, photographer Mark Shearman (also Steve Adam) and to Stuart Weir who helps us out with interviews with top Scots at major events around Europe. And to others contributing to our comms efforts on a regular basis.

Our YouTube channel this month is running at around 2k views per day.

Please check it out here and subscribe (it is free)

Scottish Athletics YouTube channel


Tags: Budapest 2023, Jemma Reekie, Josh Kerr, Laura Muir, Neil Gourley, Nicole Yeargin

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