Josh Kerr: 'Scottish athletes need to believe in themselves' says Edinburgh born Olympic bronze medallist Josh Kerr
Josh Kerr encouraged dozens of young people to believe in themselves and pursue athletics when he returned to his home city of Edinburgh this week in the wake of his bronze medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Kerr, now 23, started running when he was just nine-years-old and after over a decade of training and races, he achieved his goal of becoming an Olympian this summer.
He competed in the 1500m in Tokyo on August 7 with a time of three minutes and 29 seconds, a personal best which secured him bronze.
Kerr, who now lives in Seattle, Washington, returned to Scotland on Thursday for the first time since his momentous win and took part in a Q&A event at Saughton Sports Complex to share his tips and tricks with young athletes across the city.
Speaking exclusively to the Evening News after the event, Kerr said he was delighted by the turnout because he wanted to inspire and help as many young runners as possible who are in the same position as he once was.
He said: “I had talks like this when I was 10-years-old and it made a massive difference to me.
"There is a phenomenal number of athletes out here training in the cold and dark weather and I find it hugely motivating to remember that I was doing the same back then.
"I’m trying to give back to these young people what I wanted at that age.”
Questions asked by keen runners – from clubs including Edinburgh AC, Corstorphine AAC and Harmeny AC – ranged from how to deal with nerves to what Kerr eats for breakfast.
He left the crowd laughing after sharing that three hours before a race he gets to enjoy pancakes and maple syrup.
However, one important message which came up several times from the Olympian was “do not over-train”.
He said it is one of the worst things an athlete can do, and instead they should focus on watching back their races and perfecting their technique.
Discussing how he got into the sport, Kerr said: “I started running when I was nine, I was able to get into some local competitions after a summer camp in Edinburgh.
“I really enjoyed that and I thought ‘you know what, I think I might have a bit of a future with this’.
“I got into as many races as I could then, I won a couple and realised how much fun that was.
"It all kind of snowballed from there with the fantastic coaches at Edinburgh AC."
Kerr talked fondly about his first ever coach, Eric Fisher, who attended Thursday’s Q&A, saying he would never have got to where he is without him.
He described the immense talent that comes out of Edinburgh being down to the “amazing grassroots coaches” who dedicate themselves to progressing young athletes.
Kerr grew up in Morningside, and attended George Watson's College until he was 17-years-old. At that point he made a huge career move and accepted a scholarship to the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
At the end of his third year, Brooks Running reached out to sign Kerr onto their professional team and he has been with them ever since.
Outside of school, Kerr described the support his family gave him as “absolutely necessary”, saying they were very involved and it was exactly what he needed.
He continued: “To get a little bit of guidance and support from your family makes such a difference and is very necessary from an early age because there’s loads of adversity that comes your way.
“Whether it is little injuries, struggling with motivation or having trouble training, those are the things which parents can really help with, they are a real key to my success.”
Kerr’s mum, Jill, is a physio based in Morningside which meant he was able to keep on top of his physical health.
While his dad, John, was responsible for keeping him “in line” and ensuring he stuck to his training programme.
Like any teenager, there were times quitting seemed like an appealing option, particularly at the ages of 15 and 16, but the alternative was traditional education which Kerr said wasn’t something he was interested in.
Asked if it has sunk in yet that he is an Olympian, Kerr laughed and said that the bronze has actually helped it feel real.
"I obviously wanted a medal, I didn’t want to go and then find myself being constantly reminded of a bad performance,” he said.
"So I went and executed my plan to feel like a real Olympian, getting that bronze really helped with that and it has sunk in now."
He added that athletes in Scotland are often seen as the underdogs, but that they need to believe in themselves because they are “not on the back foot.”
He said: “I think it’s a great mentality to have, to have that chip on your shoulder to really go after things, but I think that what Scottish athletes need to realise is that they are much better than they think they are.
"They need to go after those GB vests as well as the Scottish ones.”
Kerr is currently waiting to hear whether he has been selected for the Commonwealth Games next year in Birmingham, describing it as a “big goal” of his and is also looking ahead to a world championship competition in Eugene, Oregon, just an hour and a half from where he trains in the US.
He added: “Those are the big races I really love competing in.
“Thank goodness I’m still pretty young, hopefully there are more medals in my future.”