New world champion Josh Kerr knew he would break Jakob Ingebrigtsen as he stormed to 1500 metres gold and revealed he played mind games with the Norwegian.
The Scot clocked three minutes and 29.38 seconds to stun Ingebrigtsen, forcing the overwhelming favourite to settle for silver at the World Championships in Budapest.
Kerr emulated Jake Wightman’s win in Eugene last year and, with the injured Wightman missing in Hungary, Ingebrigtsen – second in 2022 – was denied the world crown again.
“I felt him break and I just needed to stay strong,” said Kerr, who adds to his Olympics bronze.
— British Athletics (@BritAthletics) August 23, 2023
“I was looking up at the screen making sure no one was coming on my outside but with 50m to go I knew I had it.
“I felt there was a slight weakness with 200m to go, I had to be in lane two for a minute but I’m going to fight all the way to the end, regardless whether I broke him or not.
“I’ve been in four major championship finals and come away with only a bronze. I knew it was my turn. When you’re the underdog you have to come and take what’s yours, you’re not handed anything. It was about going there and taking what’s mine.”
Kerr, fifth last year, admitted he tried to psyche Ingebrigtsen out on Wednesday after wearing a similar vest to the one Wightman wore in Eugene.
“I’m not saying I wore the specific one to bring back some nightmares but I needed every single ounce I had. This was the vest I chose,” he added.
Wightman, watching from the BBC studio at the National Athletics Centre, labelled his Edinburgh AC club-mate the Terminator after victory.
“I like it (the Terminator nickname), back-to-back world champions, it’s not something anyone has ever done before,” said Kerr.
“Especially in back-to-back years because it’s not been possible. Great Britain has something in the water. We have to keep producing world champions.”
Ingebrigtsen made his move inside the final lap, only for Kerr to retaliate with around 200m remaining – almost a carbon copy of Wightman’s win in America.
Ingebrigtsen was unable to fight back down the final straight as Kerr held off his challenge to win his first major global title.
The 25-year-old, who trains in Seattle, also revealed he cuts off communication in the build up to the Championships to focus on his goal.
“I don’t have my phone for about two weeks beforehand. Only about eight people or so,” he said. “I’m not a big social media guy when it comes to World Champs.
“You just have to have belief in yourself. My fiancee has my phone if anything big comes up, I have my other phone for the people who are massively important in this process.
“It’s been the same phone since 2021, it’s about making sure I’m focusing on the plan. All I have is the Premier League app, which I’m doing incredibly well on, and Duolingo as I’m trying to learn Spanish.”
Wightman, who has been forced to miss the Championships with a foot problem, saluted Kerr.
“Our little club in Edinburgh has had two back-to-back world champions,” he said.
“That’s hard to believe. Jakob Ingebrigtsen is going to start hating us Brits ain’t he? I think Josh Kerr knew what to do there. You saw when he came on Jakob’s shoulder.
“He showed so much promise for so long, that medal in Tokyo was just the start of this. When Josh Kerr gets it right and when he’s running well, he absolutely flies. I think Ingebrigtsen underestimated how well he was running at the moment.”
Ingebrigtsen said he had a sore throat this week and was feeling “not good”, adding: “I just wasn’t good enough.”
— Jake Wightman (@JakeSWightman) August 23, 2023
Asked how he views Kerr as a global rival now, he added: “It’s totally different. We have been competitors for a long time, he is a great runner but it is what it is.”
Neil Gourley, who finished ninth in the final, said: “I am really happy for Josh, I could tell this was coming, I knew he would be right up there, the margins are fine at this level.
“I knew he would give Jakob a run for his money this week. The way he has carried himself, the way he has been looking, he has been full of confidence.”
Meanwhile, Great Britain’s Molly Caudery finished fifth in the pole vault, victory shared by Australia’s Nina Kennedy and the USA’s Katie Moon, with a personal best of 4.75m, while Karsten Warholm took the 400m hurdles title.