Kerr blocking out the noise ahead of tilt at world indoors title

Kerr blocking out the noise ahead of tilt at world indoors title

By James Reid in Glasgow

Reigning 1500m outdoor world champion Josh Kerr insists he is blocking out the noise ahead of his return to home soil at the World Athletics Indoor Championships on Saturday.

Kerr returns to Scotland as one of the sport’s biggest stars following his stunning gold in Budapest last summer, with his rivalry with Jakob Ingebrigtsen set to be one of the stories of this summer’s Paris Olympics.

Ingebrigtsen, who is not competing in Glasgow, recently claimed he could beat Kerr’s recent two-mile world best time ‘blindfolded’, but the Scot refused to be drawn into a war of words and is instead focused on putting on a performance for home fans when he races in the 3000m at 8.45pm live on BBC Two.

“There is a lot more external noise but internally this has always been the goal, this has always been the athlete I thought I was,” said Kerr. “Maybe I hadn’t proved that enough in 2021 and externally, but internally this was always the level.

“It is getting a bit louder but change your phone number and no one knows who you are. I focus on myself and make sure I can compete at the highest level when the stage is right.

“I am very excited, nothing has really changed for me other than we are focused on achieving that main goal.”

The 26-year-old is in fine form heading into the championships, with the Edinburgh-born athlete clocking a 3000m personal best of 7:30.14 in New York earlier this year along with a world best two-mile time of 8:00.67.

Kerr won 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics three years ago but has his eyes on gold in Paris, with his run-out in Glasgow all part of a carefully planned process that includes harnessing the power of the home crowd and some extra laps around the track after making a last-minute decision to enter.

“It was just making sure the body wasn’t fighting the training,” he explained. “I didn’t want to give up the opportunity of another Olympic medal because I was forcing my hand to be at a home championships.

“I wanted to be here, and that meant I had to be extremely regimented in everything that I did to show that I was in a great position.

“Over the years I have realised I need to get stronger and I have only ran one 3k and one two mile in my career and both of them were wins and reasonably quick.

“I am trying to get better at that and focus on some of the things that maybe I haven’t done well in the past and hopefully that will bring me through the three rounds of the 1500m in the Olympics.

“Spending a bit more time in a stadium, a couple of more laps round with this crowd, it will be a bit of fun.

“I grew up racing here, I have probably raced in Glasgow 50 or 60 times. This place is going to be absolutely electric.

“It has an amazing balance between getting enough people in here but also feeling like it’s a small stadium where everyone feels on top of you.

“I think it’s going to be so loud and amazing and I don’t think anyone puts on a running event like the UK does, so I am pretty excited.”

Kerr will take to the track at prime time on Saturday evening as part of a bumper schedule that also includes fellow Scot Laura Muir, who also goes in the 3000m, with the women’s start list packed with star names.

Muir won 3000m bronze and 1500m silver the last time the UK held the World Indoors in Birmingham in 2018, but the Olympic silver medallist faces a tough task in Glasgow.

The 5000m world record holder Gudaf Tsegay will be the favourite, while fellow Ethiopians Lemon Hailu - world champion two years ago in Belgrade - and Hirut Meshesha are likely to challenge alongside steeplechase world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech.

But Muir will have plenty of confidence that she can sign off from the indoor season in style ahead of turning her attentions to Paris, with a new British two-mile record of 9:08.84 evidence that she is tuning up well.

"I'm so happy about where I'm at going into an Olympic year," she told the BBC. "I go into an Olympic year in the best place I could be and this championship is a huge stepping stone towards Paris this summer.

"That is the big goal for this year, so I am keeping this championship in perspective.

"I'm just so chuffed that I can be here and competing. I've never had a global championships in Scotland before. So it's incredibly exciting."

Saturday also sees rising British star Molly Caudery compete in the pole vault from 7.05pm, where the 23-year-old will look to add to the two world best heights she has already posted this year but must get past Olympic champion Katie Moon for gold.

The evening’s action rounds off with two world champions, as Femke Bol and Karsten Warholm trade hurdles for the flat in the 400m before Grant Holloway goes for his second 60m hurdles world indoor title - the American has not been beaten in the discipline since 2014, when he was 16.

Those looking for some early medal action can find it from 10am, as Olympic champion Miltiadis Tentoglou is out to defend his world indoor title from two years ago in the long jump.

The world’s best athletes head to Scotland for the World Athletics Indoor Championships Glasgow 24 from 1-3 March and you can keep up to date with the latest on the World Athletics website, its associated platforms and via broadcasters around the world.