New world champion Josh Kerr is ready to run with a target on his back after his Hungary heroics.
The 25-year-old claimed a shock 1500m title at the World Championships in Budapest on Wednesday to leave favourite Jakob Ingebrigtsen trailing in second.
It came after he finished fifth at last year’s delayed championships in Eugene as fellow Scot Jake Wightman won the title.
There is less than a year to go before the Paris Olympics – where he aims to better his bronze from Tokyo – but Kerr insisted he will not change his approach despite victory.
He said: “I hadn’t won a 1500m race this year. That’s what the approach was this year. It was calm. It was cool and collected. Yes, I’ll have a target on my back, but I’m not looking to really change my approach.
“I’m world champion now. If you watch the race back when it pans past me I’m kind of miming to myself ‘this is my turn’. I’ve been in four major championship finals and I’ve come away with one gold now.
“I threw everything at the Olympic Games and came away with my first medal and that was a big moment for Brooks (his team).
“It was a big moment for me and my family. It was just like: ‘It’s been a big build up, let’s just enjoy it, relax.’ But now, it’s kind of like, we have the Olympics on the horizon, I have a couple more races this season.
“I race next week in Zurich so right back on the horse and back to the chicken and rice really.”
Kerr partied until the early hours in Budapest with Wightman, his family and team before returning to the hotel to ensure he did not have a whereabouts violation early on Thursday morning.
“I did drug testing, got through that, and then it was about trying to find where my family and Brooks were,” he said.
Josh Kerr celebrates with Neil Gourley (right) and Jake Wightman (left) (Josh Kerr)
“Guess who showed up? Mr Jake Wightman and he was like, ‘we’re staying out, we’re staying out’.
“Just having my parents there and a lot of people from my brand and people that made the spikes, my fiancee, it was just absolutely unbelievable.
“It was 4am back to the hotel and then realised that I had a whereabouts slot coming up between 6am and 7am so it was a taxi back to make sure I was there for that time and then absolutely zero minutes of sleep.”
Last year’s disappointment in Eugene of failing to make the podium while watching Wightman win gold helped inspire Kerr’s Budapest victory.
He admitted he started his planning as he watched Wightman cross the line in Oregon and feels his changes – including hiring a chef – paid off.
“Jake didn’t have the Olympics that he wanted and I know at that point he went back to the drawing board and found ways to to get better,” he said.
“So, for me, it was a very similar approach. I felt like I underachieved in Eugene, but I felt like there were definitely places to go. I was amazingly happy for Jake at the time, but again, I’m not here to be a cheerleader for someone else.
“Regardless if that’s a really good friend of mine or an enemy, if you could even say that. So I planned for a long time. It was a reasonably similar plan, but that was the outcome.”
Kerr moved to America when he was 17 to train and study at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and now spends the majority of his time training in Seattle.
“I was able to find a career in it. I think the best athletes are making sacrifices on a daily basis,” he said.
“I don’t live in Scotland anymore, I live over in the US away from my parents, my brother, my nephews. I currently live in a different state to my fiancee as well.
“On a day-to-day basis I’m not with the people I love and not where I grew up.
“It’s hard but on the start line I know the sacrifices I made to be there so every opportunity I have to show success and bring home the goods is almost more important to me.
“This past four or five week camp coming into Slovakia with the team has been mostly about what sacrifices am I making to make sure I’m going to feel sharp and ready to go.
“I was very meticulous in my preparation and I was able to find the winning strategy.”