In order to save money to compete at St. Louis 1904, Robert “Bobby” Kerr slept on the floor at a friend’s house. His Olympic debut in 1904 produced only modest results on the track but Kerr gained valuable experience. He missed Athens 1906 due to financial restraints but made it to London 1908 where his 100m rivalry with South African Reggie Walker continued. He opened up his Olympic campaign tying with American James Rector for the second fastest time of 11.0 seconds in the 100m, but the officials awarded Kerr the bronze. The following day Kerr, who liked the wide turns on the 660m track, won the 200m final by less than a foot in 22.6 seconds, capturing his second gold medal of the Games and his first Olympic gold medal. Kerr received telegrams of congratulations from all over Canada and arrived home the son of Hamilton and a national hero.
Known for his exceptionally fast start and rapid acceleration, Kerr set six Canadian records in his decade long career. He won the 100, 440, and 880 yard races at the 1902 King Edward Coronation Games earning civic recognition. The Canadian champion in the 100 yards in 1907 and 220 yards in 1906-08, Kerr set Canadian records for all distances between 40 yards and 220 yards. He was awarded the Harvey Gold Cup as the meet’s outstanding athlete at the 1908 British Stamford Bridge meet having won the sprint double.
In 1887, Kerr emigrated with his family from Ireland to Canada when he was five, settling in Hamilton, Ontario. When he was a teenager, he joined the International Harvester Fire Brigade and enjoyed running in his spare time.
Kerr was selected to run at Stockholm 1912 but chose retirement instead thinking he was past his prime. He remained very active in the sports world and was as well respected as a leader as he was an athlete. He coached athletics and football, was Canadian team captain at Amsterdam 1928, manager at Los Angeles 1932, member of the Canadian Olympic Association, president of the Hamilton Olympic Committee, meet director of the 91st Highlanders Indoor meet and a track official. Kerr worked with the Canadian Olympic Association as the driving force behind the inaugural 1930 British Empire Games held in Hamilton.
He was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 1949 and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1955. He died in Hamilton at the age of 80 and was posthumously inducted into the Hamilton Sports Hall of Fame in 2012, where his Olympic medals were brought out for the first time in decades. A park in his home town was named in his honour.
|1904 St. Louis||Athletics||100m - Men||-|
|1904 St. Louis||Athletics||200m - Men||-|
|1904 St. Louis||Athletics||60m - Men||-|
|1908 London||Athletics||100m - Men||Bronze|
|1908 London||Athletics||200m - Men||Gold|