Athletics-Kerr and Ingebrigtsen to renew rivalry at Prefontaine Classic

FILE PHOTO: Athletics - World Athletics Indoor Championships - Commonwealth Arena, Glasgow, Scotland, Britain - March 2, 2024 Gold medallist Britain's Josh Kerr celebrates on the podium after winning the men's 3000m REUTERS/Hannah Mckay/File Photo

(Reuters) - Britain's Josh Kerr and Norway's Jakob Ingebrigtsen will renew their rivalry over a mile at the Prefontaine Classic on Saturday in Eugene, Oregon with neither interested in dialling down the heat ahead of a potential showdown at the Paris Olympics.

This will be the first race between the rivals since Kerr stunned Olympic champion and hot favourite Ingebrigtsen last August to win the world 1500 metres title in Budapest, a result that triggered a war of words between the two.

After coming up short in Budapest, Ingebrigtsen called Kerr "just the next guy". Kerr later claimed Ingebrigtsen has "major weaknesses" and the Norwegian fired back saying he could beat the Briton "blindfolded".

Now sitting side-by-side during a pre-meet press conference on Friday, Kerr was in no mood for sugar-coating things when asked to describe his relationship with Ingebrigtsen ahead of their clash at the Diamond League event.

"I wouldn't say this is a counselling session so I don't know if I can explain our relationship," Kerr told reporters.

"But we are fierce competitors who both want to be the best in the world and that's not going to change irregardless of comments."

Ingebrigtsen, who will be running his first race of the 2024 season after missing eight months due to an Achilles injury, felt the rivalry with Kerr was a positive for the sport.

"If we take a step back and look at it, it's good for the sport," said Ingebrigtsen. "All of these different things that cause people to create hype or just engagement or attention, that's definitely positive for all of us and for the sport."

When the rivals were asked if they felt the race would help to settle any tension between them, Kerr insisted that was not his goal for the weekend.

"I'm here trying to be the best in the world. I showed I could do that last year and I want to continue that pursuit," said Kerr. "If that annoys people or ruffles up competitors I am sure it will because the whole world is trying to do what I am doing.

"So yeah, I don't really care how this race affects anyone else. It's going to affect my season and my career and that's the selfish way that I look at my racing because it's an individual sport."

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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