Karsten Warholm smashes the 300m hurdles world best in Oslo (© Thomas Windestam / DECA Text&Bild)
There’s nothing quite like being bumped down the world all-time list to fire up an athlete.
Perhaps that’s just the impetus Karsten Warholm needed ahead of the Oslo Bislett Games on Thursday (1) when he will make his 2021 Wanda Diamond League debut.
The two-time world champion has come close to the world 400m hurdles record of 46.78 on several occasions over the past two years. He has twice broken 47 seconds and owns five other performances within half a second of Kevin Young’s long-standing mark.
But last weekend Warholm slipped from second to third on the world all-time list after USA’s Rai Benjamin clocked 46.83 to win the US Olympic Trials in Eugene.
On Thursday when Warholm races in front of his home crowd, he will want to at least reclaim his No.2 spot on the world all-time list. His bigger target, though, will be to break Young’s record once and for all.
In his one indoor race this year, he clocked a world-leading 300m flat PB of 32.47. And in his only outdoor appearance to date, he broke his own 300m hurdles world best with 33.26 – half a second faster than his previous best for the distance.
If the 25-year-old goes out at world record pace in Oslo, there’s little chance his opponents will pose much of a threat. But Brazil’s Alison Dos Santos, Ireland’s Thomas Barr, 2016 European champion Yasmani Copello and Estonia’s Rasmus Magi will all be looking to sharpen their season’s bests as they count down the final few weeks ahead of the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
"It is always special to be running at the Bislett Games," said Warholm at the pre-event press conference. "I did the 300m hurdles a month ago and that was a nice start for me and now I'm really looking forward to doing my favourite event – I think it's going to be really good. I feel very prepared, inspired and motivated."
After Oslo, Warholm is set to go head-to-head with Benjamin at the Diamond League meeting in Monaco, and talking about the standard in the event, he added: "This is why I am in it – I am in it to perform, to be up against the big guys and give them a hard time. Either I win or I lose, but I will always give it my all. This is the fun part now because if the medals were handed out before the competition there wouldn't be anything interesting about it. We need to have these duels and these head-to-heads.
"Tomorrow is also going to be a very fun race with a lot of good athletes and exciting talent so it's going to be a tough fight as well. It's not an easy start for me!"
After her surprise defeat over 3000m in Doha last month, two-time world champion Hellen Obiri hopes to return to winning ways in Oslo over 5000m. She gained revenge on world U20 champion Beatrice Chebet, the winner in Doha, at the recent Kenyan Trials where Obiri finished three places ahead of her younger rival in the 5000m.
But the Kenyan duo will have to be at their best again on Thursday as they’ll take on world silver medallist Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi, Ethiopian duo Tsehay Gemechu and Fantu Worku, and European silver medallist Eilish McColgan.
Clash of the pole vault titans
Let it never be said that the world’s best pole vaulters avoid competition; the Bislett Games will be the 21st time that Mondo Duplantis, Sam Kendricks and Renaud Lavillenie have had a three-way clash.
Duplantis, the world record-holder, has won their past five encounters, but two-time world champion Kendricks has the overall edge, the US vaulter coming out on top 11 times to date. Lavillenie, meanwhile, has won just two of those 20 contests so far, but someone as consistent and as experienced as the Frenchman can never be written off.
Duplantis heads to Oslo off the back of a world-leading 6.10m vault in Hengelo, which was followed by a 6.00m clearance in horrid conditions in Karlstad. Whatever the weather in Oslo – and fortunately the forecast for Thursday is very good – Duplantis has shown he can pretty much jump 6.00m on any given day.
Kendricks has finished in the top two of all of his competitions so far this year and has a season’s best of 5.86m. Lavillenie, however, recently vaulted 5.92m in Chorzow – his best outdoor clearance for three years.
"I don't think we have all competed together (outdoors) since 2019, so it is really good to be back together," said Kendricks. "I think we're all champing at the bit to try to jump high for you guys, so hopefully tomorrow is the day."
World discus champion Daniel Stahl has won seven of his past eight competitions, but this looks set to be his toughest test of the year so far.
The Swede will face Kristjan Ceh, the Slovenian who set a national record of 70.35m to finish a close second to Stahl in Kuortane last week; Fedrick Dacres, the Jamaican who finished second to Stahl at the 2019 World Championships; Andrius Gudzius, the Lithuanian who preceded Stahl as world champion; and Simon Pettersson, the fellow Swede who handed Stahl his most recent defeat.
Polish javelin thrower Maria Andrejczyk produced one of the early shocks of the outdoor season when she went to No.2 on the world all-time list with 71.40m in Split in May. Like Stahl, Andrejczyk faces a strong line-up in Oslo.
Germany’s Christin Hussong finished second to Andrejczyk in Split, but has been undefeated in her seven competitions since then, also improving her PB to 69.19m. World champion Kelsey-Lee Barber, world record-holder Barbora Spotakova and 2016 European champion Tatsiana Khaladovich are also in the field.
In the jumps, world champion Malaika Mihambo takes on world indoor champion Ivana Spanovic and European indoor champion Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk in the women’s long jump. Cuban duo Jordan Diaz and Andy Diaz line up against Algeria’s Yasser Mohamaed Triki and Germany’s Max Hess in the men’s triple jump.
Nakaayi, Bol and Kejelcha among the other track headliners
Uganda’s Halimah Nakaayi looks to be rounding into the form that carried her to a surprise world 800m title in Doha two years ago. She lines up for her specialist distance in Oslo and will take on Australia’s Catriona Bisset, who recently broke the Oceanian record with 1:58.09, as well as Germany’s Katharina Trost and Norwegian record-holder Hedda Hynne.
World 10,000m silver medallist Yomif Kejelcha steps down in distance to the 3000m – the event in which he is a two-time world indoor champion. The Ethiopian will face Kenya’s Nicholas Kimeli, Michael Kibet, Bethwell Birgen and Bahrain’s Birhanu Balew.
The Svein Arne Hansen Dream Mile, which has been named in honour of the former Bislett Games meeting director and European Athletics President who died last year, will feature recent Kenyan Trials winner Charles Simotwo, world bronze medallist Marcin Lewandowski and Australian record-holder Stewart McSweyn. Jakob Ingebrigtsen had been set to compete, but he withdrew on Wednesday after picking up a sore throat.
Femke Bol will start as the strong favourite in the women’s 400m hurdles. Ukrainian pair Viktoriya Tkachuk and Anna Ryzhykova are also in good form, though.
World Indoor Tour winner Javianne Oliver will make her first competitive appearance since finishing second in the 100m at the US Trials, booking her spot on her nation’s team for the Tokyo Olympics. Once again racing over 100m, the 10.96 sprinter will face 2017 world silver medallist Marie-Josee Ta Lou, European indoor champion Ajla del Ponte, and Olympic long jump champion Tianna Bartoletta, who has returned to sub-11-second form this year.
Canada’s world and Olympic silver medallist Andre De Grasse, a winner in Oslo over 100m in 2016 and 2017, will be looking for his first 200m victory in the Norwegian capital. Joining him on the start line are Aaron Brown, winner of the sprint double at the recent Canadian Trials, and Botswana’s Isaac Makwala.
"The last time I was here was in 2017 and I ran the 100m, of course in different circumstances," said De Grasse. "There was a great crowd and I had a good race. It feels good to be back here again."
Having clocked 19.89 – his third-quickest ever time – to finish second at the Doha Diamond League at the end of May, he added: "I usually don’t start off the season that quick so for me to run my third-fastest time in the 200m, that feels really good. It’s just knowing that my training is going really well and that my preparation for Tokyo is coming on good."
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics