Josh Kerr takes 1500m bronze in Tokyo on final Olympic weekend

Jake Wightman Doha

Josh Kerr rounded out Team GB’s final night in the stadium with a brilliant 1500m bronze medal and a Scottish record at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium. The marathon proved to be tough for the British athletes as Eliud Kipchoge retained his Olympic title in 2:08:38.

Team GB have plenty of history in the men’s 1500m, with their five Olympic golds more than any other nation and five of the nine podium places during the Games of the 1980s taken by Brits as reported by British Athleics.

However, it had been 33 years since a British man last climbed the Olympic podium in the event and 23-year-old Scotsman Josh Kerr (handicap-6.8) now joins legendary names such as Coe, Ovett, Cram and Elliott, after he crossed the line third behind Jakob Ingebrigtsen (NOR), who clocked an Olympic record time, and Timothy Cheruiyot (KEN).

In a race run at a fast pace(56 at 400m and 1:51 at 800m), Kerr moved into the top five at the bell and stormed past Kenya’s Abel Kipsang down the home straight before almost overhauling his compatriot Cheruiyot for silver.

Kerr’s time of 3:29.05 knocked over 2 seconds off his personal best, was just 0.24s outside Mo Farah’s British record time and was the second-fastest metric mile run by a British man in history.

Kerr’s Olympics were almost over in the heats when he finished seventh in his race, only to qualify as a fastest loser, and he has made the most of that chance to remarkably win Team GB’s sixth athletics medal of Tokyo 2020.

“I’m blown away,” he said. “This has been a hard Championships for me, the first run wasn’t great, it was one of those days and you can have those. Sadly, mine was the first round of the Olympics.

“I had to go back, think about it, recalibrate and come back to these next rounds fighting for every single step. I feel like you saw that today, you saw that in the semi-final and I’m really happy with that performance.

“I have this weird confidence in myself. Some may call it cockiness, some may call it general confidence.

“When you put the effort in and you’re surrounded by a team like I am, you can’t not feel confidence every step of the way.”

Kerr was one of three Brits in the final alongside Jake Heyward (handicap -6.6) and Jake Wightman (handicap -7.1).

Wightman went out hard and put himself towards the front of the pack at the halfway mark but eventually finished tenth in a time of 3:35.09, with Heyward, who ran a consistent race, coming ninth – 0.66s ahead of his countryman.

Meanwhile, an enthralling women’s 10,000m final saw Eilish McColgan (handicap -3.5) finish 10th, while Jess Judd (handicap -2.9) crossed the line in 18th as Sifan Hassan (NED) won her second gold of the Games, adding to her 5000m crown.

With the intense heat and humidity in Tokyo combining with a fast pace set by the leaders, the race very quickly strung out and McColgan did well to stay with the front group until the 4km mark.

Even once she fell off the back of the lead group, the Scot stuck to her task and secured a place in the top ten, her best finish in an Olympic final, at her third Games.

“It was tough, definitely one of the toughest races I’ve run, so I’m proud of myself for finishing,” said McColgan, who clocked an impressive time of 31:04.46, less than six seconds outside her PB.

“There were definitely points where I didn’t think I was going to make it, but I think mentally for me I just wanted to have a better race than I did in the 5k.

“I would’ve loved to have dipped under 31 minutes, so a little disappointed to not have had my eye on running my mum’s Scottish record.

“I would’ve loved to have sneaked under that and got a PB, but in those conditions I can’t ask for anything more.”

Judd’s time was 31:56.80 as the heat took its toll on the Blackburn Harrier and she had to be helped off the track after the conclusion of the race, although confirmed there was no lasting damage in post-race interviews.

“It was just so hard,” she admitted. “I felt like I was doing the right thing at every point and then I don’t know, it just got even harder, and with 2k to go I just thought I’ve just got to finish.

“The hardest race I’ve ever done. I didn’t think I was going to get round, but I did, which is good.”

The final British track action of Tokyo 2020 saw the women’s 4x400m relay squad race hard and earn themselves a fifth-place finish.

The marathon, along with the walking races, was moved to Sapporo, over 500 miles north of the Japanese capital, where temperatures are cooler in the summer but officials still had to bring the start time of the women’s race forward an hour to 6am local time due to concerns surrounding the heat.

Stephanie Davis (handicap -2.4) made her way through the field to finish 39th and first out of the Team GB contingent on her Olympic women’s marathon debut.

The 30-year-old only ran her first marathon in 2018 but won the British trials at Kew Gardens earlier this year with a PB of 2:27:16 to book her spot on the plane to Japan to compete at the delayed Games.

Davis finished in 2:36:33 ahead of compatriots Steph Twell (handicap -2.7) in 68th and Jess Piasecki (handicap -0.7) who finished three spots further back.

Both Twell and Piasecki  crossed the line in times of 2:53:26 and 2:55:39 respectively.

The women’s marathon gold medal went to Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir who stopped the clock at 2:27:20 with the African nation securing a 1-2 as world record holder Brigid Kosgei took silver after finishing 16 seconds adrift of her teammate.

American Molly Seidel claimed bronze in just her third marathon ever after finishing ten seconds behind Kosgei – who ran over 13 minutes slower in testing conditions than when she broke Paula Radcliffe’s world record at the Chicago Marathon in 2019.

In the men’s marathon, Chris Thompson battled the heat in Sapporo to finish 54th in his first Olympic appearance over 42.2km. The 40-year-old qualified for Tokyo 2020 in March with an emotional win at the Müller British Athletics Marathon at Kew Gardens just five days after becoming a father to baby Theo.

Chris Thompson (handicap -6.3) ran 2:21:29 in blistering humidity but compatriots Callum Hawkins (handicap -6.9), Ben Connor (handicap -7.0) and Belfast man Stephen Scullion (handicap -6.7) were unable to finish the race. Loughborough based Kevin Seaward (handicap -5.4) and Belfast GP Paul Pollock (handicap -5.4) survived the furnace with 2:21:45 and 2:27:48 respectively.

Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge became just the third person to defend an Olympic marathon title, and the first in over 40 years to achieve the feat, after storming home in 2:08:38, one minute and 20 seconds ahead of his nearest challenger.

It had looked like Kipchoge’s teammate Lawrence Cherono would be the one to take silver and make it another Kenyan 1-2 after Peres Jepchirchir and Brigid Kosgei came first and second in the women’s race yesterday.

But Dutch runner Abdi Nageeye kicked and went past him on the home straight while visibly ushering his training partner Bashir Abdi of Belgium to follow suit.

Abdi obliged and took bronze behind Nageeye with Cherono forced to settle for fourth among the chasing group on a sweltering Sunday, which saw 30 competitors drop out.

Both marathons and the walking races were moved over 500 miles north of Tokyo to Sapporo amid fears surrounding the summer heat but temperatures still topped 27°C.

Thompson, who finished 25th behind gold medallist Mo Farah in the men’s 10,000m on Super Saturday at London 2012, said: “The sun never felt like it was on you but it was deceptive. I tried to respect the second half and I think I did that but that last six to eight miles was one of the emotionally toughest things I’ve done running-wise.

“You go through a lifetime of emotions in two hours, you really go to some weird places, and you feel like you can’t do it. I’m really proud I got to the end.

“There was a couple of times where I felt like I could barely lift my legs, and you’re still staring down the barrel of five miles to go, 25 minutes to half an hour, and you can barely bring your leg up. That’s the first time I’ve felt that so-called wall. I went through about five or six walls where I felt like I hit something.

“On reflection I think it was dehydration and complete sugar depletion. I was yo-yoing in and out, I think I got things slightly wrong, which is fine, you don’t always get it right and there were enough athletes that didn’t finish today.

“I say there’s no way that I wasn’t going to finish, there were times when I was telling myself you have to finish, but there were times when I was thinking I physically can’t.

“The first half was spot on, perfect, I felt really good between halfway and about 30k, felt really good. Then I literally turned a corner and that was it. With about seven miles to go I just bombed out suddenly. Then I was just on the rollercoaster of emotion of thinking I can’t finish.”

Hawkins had finished ninth at Rio 2016 but Scotland’s top marathon runner succumbed to an ankle injury in the final athletics event of the delayed Games.

“I found the conditions okay. I didn’t struggle too much with the conditions, it was warm and you could feel it, but it was my ankle that I’ve been dealing with for the past year that went,” he explained.

“I kept getting slower and couldn’t put any power through my ankle. I probably went through a bit of a bad patch at 18, 19km, and then from there my ankle just got worse and worse.

“I would’ve just ended up hurting it more and being back where I was last year, and I can’t do another year like that. It’s just been a really bad year for me, to be honest.

“My ankle, and then when I get that fixed in the last six weeks, I’ve only managed to finish like two sessions. I don’t know what happened, whether it was illness or a bad reaction to something, but it’s been a tough year.”

Connor revealed his legs went in the heat but was proud to have represented Team GB at his first Olympics.

He said: “Obviously it was hot, but my legs just couldn’t run, I don’t know what it was. It was really humid.

“I did everything I could in terms of taking on water, but I’m not sure, 25k my legs just went, and once they go in a marathon there’s no way of bringing them back unfortunately. No matter how hard you try. I think I got to 30, 32, I can’t remember.

“I kept the same pace, going out at around 68 minutes for the half marathon, which was fine. I didn’t feel like we were jogging at that point but I felt okay, and then 20 minutes later it felt like I hit a wall which was weird.

“I hit the wall at 25. I can’t say I went out too quick, because I went out quite steady. It’s just one of those days but it’s a shame it’s at the Olympics. It’s just hard.

“It’s just the marathon, no matter where it is it’s brutal, whether it’s the Olympics or a local marathon back in the UK, it’s still 26 miles.

“I need to take a break and then decide what I do in terms of racing and stuff. I definitely need a break – it’s been three marathons in 10 months now. It’s not ideal but it is what it is and I’m proud to be here.”

runbritain endurance results here and marathon results here

The British medal tally in Athletics:

Silver (3)

Keely Hodgkinson         (handicap -2.8)                        Women’s 800m

Laura Muir                    (handicap -3.8)                        Women’s 1500m

Men’s 4x100m Relay (CJ Ujah, Zharnel Hughes, Richard Kilty and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake)


Bronze (3) 

Josh Kerr                      (handicap -6.8)                        Men’s 1500m

Holly Bradshaw                                                          Women’s Pole Vault

Women’s 4x100m Relay (Asha Philip, Imani-Lara Lansiquot, Dina Asher-Smith and Daryll Neita)