The men’s 400m hurdles is one of the most difficult events on the track. Warholm is one of the most colorful personages in athletics. This is the focus of Stuart’s column.
Men’s 400 hurdles
It was a night which promised much for Norway with the three Ingebrigsten brothers going against the might of Ethiopia and Kenya at 5000m in a stadium which for the first time was rocking with Africans cheering, singing and waving their flags and Karsten Warholm taking on the local hero Abderrahman Samba in the 400m hurdles. The brothers were blown away as Muktar Edris retained his title.
As we have followed the 400 hurdles through the Diamond League series we have commented on how the event has lain dormant for 25 years with the winning times from the 1990s and before still being competitive. Then everything changed this year. Abderrahman Samba from Qatar was the man to beat and the young American Rai Benjamin was the man to beat him. And to provide perfect symmetry Doha, Samba’s adopted country, the venue of the world championships, was the place to do it.
Sadly everyone forgot to send Karsten Warholm the memo. The received wisdom was that Warholm was good. He was deservedly European champion – but that was Europe, this is the world. OK, he had won the World Championship in 2017 but that was obviously a fluke and lightning would not strike twice. But Warholm would not go away
Samba had won the Shanghai Diamond League but was then injured. Benjamin had won in Rome and Eugene. But Warholm won in Oslo, Stockholm, London and Paris. In the Diamond League final Warholm won in 46.92 a World Lead, National record and Diamond League record. Benjamin ran a 46.98 PR for second place.
In the World Championship final Warholm controlled the race from the start. He was eating up the ground and taking the hurdles in his stride. In a slower race than many expected he won in 47.42 from Benjamin (47.66) with Samba third in 48.03. As the field entered the home straight Warholm held a clear meter-and-a-half advantage on Benjamin.
Warholm said of the race: “It is easy to say afterwards that this was going to happen but I wasn’t too sure, to be honest. This was a very hard race. I had a pain in my chest. I thought I was going to die but here I am a world champion. This is only the beginning for all of us. Tomorrow I’ve got to get up and work again. Norway is only a small country, so to be showing up on the world stage is amazing.” By working tomorrow, he means that he will also contest the 400m flat.
The silver medallist Rai Benjamin commented: “It’s been hard for me but in the rounds I just sucked it up and in the end I got a silver medal. I wanted gold but I was just happy to be out there. We were all chasing the world record and I chopped at three of four hurdles. It just wasn’t the moment.”
Abderrahman Samba in his first 400m hurdles competition since May: “I am not happy. I’m over the moon. Two days ago I wasn’t sure whether to compete or not so to make the podium is amazing. It’s been a long hard season for me with lots of injuries”.
Warholm joins Ed Moses, Felix Sanchez and Kerron Clement as back-to-back winners of the world 400h title.
Warholm is not only a worthy winner he is genuinely nice guy and funny man. At the London Diamond League he told the press that he had wanted to buy a race horse as he thought he could make money out it – adding “I am from the Scottish part of Norway so I like money”. His master plan failed because it involved his coach, training the horse!
One feels, however, that this is only the beginning of this rivalry. Samba will be fit again next year. Benjamin is inexperienced and will improve. Warholm is number 1 but he will have competition to keep him on his toes.