© Copyright – 2023 – Athletics Illustrated

The British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) Sports Personality of the Year criteria includes, “the sportsperson whose sporting actions have most captured the UK public’s imagination during 2023.”

So, as it happens, shock reverberated around the athletics world when world 1500-metre champion Josh Kerr was not on the BBC’s published shortlist.

Screen capture of tweet by Sebastian Coe, “Are you having a laugh #SPOTY?” Pictured with World Athletics gold medal.

During the Budapest World Athletics Championships, Kerr, bettered heavy favourite Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway, just as his compatriate Jeff Weightman did the year prior at the Eugene World Athletics Championships. Weightman was shortlisted last year.

Making the shortlist were cricketer Stuart Broad, jockey Frankie Dettori, footballer Mary Earps, wheelchair tennis player Alfie Hewett, athlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson (KJT) and golfer Rory McIlroy are the nominees.

Perhaps the BBC wanted to make sure that each sport was represented only once. Football, for example, captures the imagination of Great Britain every weekend. One could suppose that the six footballers theoretically could make the shortlist.

It is a great show for the UK when sporting fans have their imaginations captured by wheelchair tennis player, Alfie Hewitt.

Kerr told the Guardian “I’m obviously massively disappointed. It’s such a prestigious event and an award that I’d have loved to have been involved in. It was one of the best world 1500m finals we’ve seen in a very long time and I was able to win gold. But I’m still going next week. I was already planning on that, and I’m going to represent British Athletics and to support KJT.”

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe tweeted, “BBC, are you having a laugh?”

KJT won the 2023 Budapest World Athletics Championships in the heptathlon with 6740 points. She is a two-time world champion having won in Doha in 2019. The 30-year-old set new personal bests in the shot put (13.92m), javelin (46.14m), and 800-metre run with her 2:05.63 performance. The javelin and 800m were accomplished during her gold medal performance in Budapest.

Kerr took out Ingebrigtsen in the 1500m, clocking a 3:29.38 performance for his first world title. In 2021, he earned a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games clocking a 3:29.05 finish time, which is his personal best. Kerr’s best makes him the 19th fastest all-time, and ahead of Weightman by .18 of a second. Of the 18 other athletes, 58 faster performances have been recorded historically. Sixteen by world record holder Hicham El Gerrouj of Morocco with his 3:26.00 topping the bill.

Ingebrigtsen is the fourth-fastest all-time with his 3:27.14 in Poland in July this year. At least four times, Ingebrigtsen has run faster than 3:29.05. Kerr’s scalp of the 23-year-old Norwegian in Budapest this summer indeed caught the imagination of the global athletics world, but not enough for the organisation to select him either.

As cheeky as Coe was with his tweet to the BBC, in fairness, World Athletics also did not shortlist Kerr. It would be interesting to see the minutes from the World Athletics committee to know how early Kerr and Ingebrigtsen were dropped from the discussions for World Athletics Athlete of the Year. Ingebrigtsen won gold in the 5000m at Budapest, the 1500m silver and set no less than five area and national records.

Ingebrigtsen clocked a 7:54.10 in the two-mile for a world-best, all-time performance. European records in the 1500m, mile and 3000m, and a world record of 4:43.13 in the 2000m all in the year 2023. Ingebrigtsen won seven Diamond League meets this year.

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