SJA Sportsman of the Year: The case for Josh Kerr

SJA members can vote now to decide the winners of three major categories at the Awards, to be held at The Kia Oval in London on Thursday 7 December; Jake Wightman, Beth Mead and the Lionesses claimed the equivalent 2022 honours; who will take the top prizes this year? Voting deadline is 15 November…

By Lucy Wilde

Josh Kerr had a point to prove when he stepped onto the track at the World Championships in Budapest this summer.

It was a point he ultimately proved when he stormed to 1500m victory in what commentator Steve Cram labelled “the performance of his lifetime”.

The 26-year-old denied pre-race favourite and current 1500m world record holder Jakob Ingebrigtsen top spot on the podium, with a season’s best time of 3:29:38.

For all-but the home straight, the Edinburgh Athletics Club athlete teased spectators, sitting in the shadow of Ingebrigtsen before outmanoeuvring the Olympic champion with just 200m to go. 

Kerr’s bronze in Tokyo in 2021 – making him the first British male to medal in the middle-distance event at the Olympics since 1988 – was a sign of what was to come for the then 23-year-old.

The Scotsman’s mental resilience is an example for athletes across the globe.

Despite illness hampering his performance at last summer’s worlds in Oregon – seeing him finish in fifth – Kerr’s steely resolve to earn a spot on the podium clearly did not waver. 

He said: “I’ve wanted this my whole life. I’m so happy.

“I threw my whole 16 years of this sport into the last 200m and didn’t give up.

“I believed I had the calibre of being a world champion and I was going to fight and scrap, do whatever I needed to come away with the gold.” 

Kerr dubbed winning the World Championships the culmination of every step of running he had ever taken. Yet he still had some unfinished business.

Seemingly unrelenting in his ambitions, Kerr combined strength, speed and strategy into the perfect recipe for success at New York’s iconic 5th Avenue Mile in September.

His maiden victory in Manhattan, with a time of 37:49:9, was the third quickest in the event’s history and so very nearly eclipsed a four-decade long course record held by Sydney Maree.

Should Kerr’s athletic feats not already speak for themselves, the frenzied reaction his performance in Budapest prompted from some of the world’s most iconic athletes could put him in firm contention for an award.

His stellar season, which saw him rise to third in the world, was recognised by Scottish Athletics earlier this month, as he beat fellow middle-distance track stars Laura Muir and Jemma Reekie to win Scottish athlete of the year.

No doubt the Scot will want to add to his medal haul in 2024, and with the Paris Olympics on the horizon, the best of Kerr might very well still be to come.

Sports journalist Lucy Wilde is a member of the SJA Academy – find out more about membership here.