The Norwegian does not lack for confidence, previously declaring he would go down as one of the greatest runners of all time.
But Kerr knew his rival had a weakness, he had seen it play out before as his team-mate and fellow Scot Jake Wightman kicked with 200m to go in Eugene last year and had the great Ingebrigtsen beaten.
A year on, it was a mirror image, Kerr haunting his opponent by foregoing his official Budapest kit to wear a similar vest to the one donned by Wightman 12 months earlier. As the new gold medallist put it: “I’m not saying I wore the specific one to bring back some nightmares, but I needed every single ounce [of opportunity] I could get.”
With Ingebrigtsen beaten but the race not complete, the 25-year-old had flashbacks to all the early-morning training sessions, the late nights, the sacrifices he had made to relocate to the United States from Edinburgh. Up until that point, it had only ever equated to an Olympic bronze.
Now he joins Wightman and Steve Cram as British world champions at the distance, and had the gold draped over his neck by an Olympic 1500m champion in Seb Coe moments after the finish.
Asked about Paris next year, when Wightman will be back fit and the former club-mates able to make a dual attack on Ingebrigtsen, Kerr said: “It’s the 13th question I’ve had about the Olympics and I’ve had the medal for about 40 minutes. It’s part of the sport, it’s, ‘What have you done for me lately?’. I’ll enjoy it and then get back to the drawing board.”
Wightman called Kerr ‘The Terminator’ in the BBC studios afterwards, Kerr smiling when he heard that and readily admitting he liked the nickname.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) August 23, 2023
Kerr may have shut down contact with the wider world in the lead-up to these World Athletics Championships, leaving his phone at home. But, before he did so, he exchanged text messages with defending champion Wightman. Kerr’s message was simple: “I told him it was GB’s title and I was looking to keep it in this country.”
Delivering that against Ingebrigtsen was no mean feat, and he forewent the golden glasses Oakley had created for him for the race, perhaps to avoid tempting fate.
For all the previous near-misses, the new world champion said he never doubted his day in the spotlight would finally come.
“I knew it was my turn,” he said. “When you’re the underdog, you have to come and take what’s yours, you’re not handed anything. It was going there, taking what’s mine.
“I felt there was a slight weakness with 200m to go. I had to be in lane two for a minute, but I’m going to fight all the way to the end.”
Break him he did, and Ingebrigtsen looked a deflated figure afterwards, later blaming a sore throat for him cracking late on. As for Kerr, he turned to his family, who were gathered in the stands, to celebrate as the hard work paid off.
Fifth a year ago, Kerr said: “I was still running when Jake finished last year. I had already set my plans for this year. I hate losing and it’s much easier not to have a target on your back, so I got to work.”
After last night, the target has very much shifted to his back.