By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2023 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
BUDAPEST (23-Aug) — As one British journalist put it, “The world 1500m title remains in Edinburgh.” A year after Jake Wightman’s stunning victory over Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, another Scotsman took the gold here at the National Athletics Center here tonight.
Josh Kerr, 25, the Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist, ran literally the perfect race and took home the title in 3:29.38 once again leaving the immensely talented Ingebrigtsen as the silver medalist.
“This is just reward for many years of hard work,” Kerr told the flash quotes team here. “I’m extremely proud to be on top of the world. I did just what I always do, throw everything I have at it and see if it breaks my way.”
Indeed it did. Ingebrigtsen approached the race in his usual style. After following the early pace of Abel Kipsang of Kenya (56.1 seconds through 400m), Ingebrigtsen took the lead 100 meters later. He led the field through 800m in 1:54.2, and soon Kerr moved up to second.
The former NCAA star for the University of New Mexico waited for the right moment, and with about 200 meters to go he went past Ingebrigtsen on the outside and began his final sprint in earnest.
“I came around the bend and I thought I have to give everything I have,” Kerr recounted. “I didn’t worry about what was going on earlier in the race, just made sure I was there with 200m to go.”
Ingebrigtsen responded at first, but as Kerr hit his full stride in the final 75 meters the Norwegian relented. He looked up at the stadium’s video display to make sure he had sole possession of second, and that’s where he finished in 3:29.65.
“In the last 30 meters I thought, I want this so badly, I don’t care about how much pain I’m in,” Kerr continued. “I’m going to do everything to get to the finish line first.”
Speaking to reporters, Ingebrigtsen explained that he had been battling a sore throat and wasn’t in his best form tonight.
“I’m of course disappointed,” Ingebrigtsen began. “All credit to Kerr; he did a great race. I feel a little bit unlucky for being in this position. I felt very similar to the World Indoors; got a little bit of a dry throat in the warm-up of the semi-final, escalated to being a sore throat in the evening.
It got a lot better this morning, but obviously not feeling one hundred percent.”
The battle for third place was nearly as exciting as the one for first. Another Norwegian, Narve Gilje Nordas, was sitting in seventh place with 200 meters to go. Coming around the bend he launched the greatest sprint of his young career.
He broke out of the pack, then ran down Kipsang to take the bronze in 3:29.68, nearly catching Ingebrigtsen. Kipsang ended up fourth in 3:29.89.
“Yes, just an amazing feeling,” Nordas told reporters. “I maybe started the kick a bit too late; I never really got lactic on the homestretch. I should have started the kick earlier and maybe got the gold. I aimed for a medal today and got the medal.”
Nordas, 24, had nearly quit the sport. He was mostly a 5000m runner, and in 2020 his 1500m personal best was only 3:39.15. Under the coaching of Jakob Ingebrigtsen’s father, Gjert, Nordas re-dedicated himself to athletics and began to run much higher mileage (190 km per week, he said).
He brought his 1500m personal best all the way down to 3:29.47 in June of this year and realized that he had found his place in the sport.
“You can say that even two months ago I wasn’t even sure if I was going to compete in the World Championships, or if it was going to be in the 5-K or 1500,” Nordas marveled.
“A year ago I ran Europeans and took 17th place in the 5-K. I was so close to just quit running; I felt terrible, was burnt out. I just wanted to stop competing on the track.”
American Yared Nuguse got fifth place in 3:30.25. He executed his race well, but didn’t quite have the extra top speed in the end to get a medal.
“I think it just kind of felt like there was one more gear that I was trying to reach and I wasn’t able to get to it,” Nuguse said.
“I also could have stayed out of more trouble with, like, people coming in on me and what not. That’s just stuff that you learn at your first Worlds that you take on to the next one.”