It didn’t take Karsten Warholm long to remind the sporting world that the 400m hurdles world record is under assault each time he steps on the track. Even in this coronavirus pandemic-shortened season, when competitive opportunities are at premium. He just makes them count.
At the EBS Herculis Meeting in Monaco, the 24-year-old Norwegian scorched to a 47.10 performance in his first 400m hurdles race in more than 10 months.
Yesterday, at the Bauhaus Galan in Stockholm, he went considerably faster, clocking 46.87 to clip 0.05 from his own European record, to solidify his No.2 spot all-time and to become the only man who has broken the event’s 47-second barrier twice. And, for several fleeting moments, lending the impression that Kevin Young’s 46.78 world record set at the 1992 Olympics, four years before Warholm was born, would be broken on that sunny Sunday afternoon at Stockholm’s storied 1912 Olympic Stadium. He just had one more hurdle to clear.
He did - but he clipped it. Just hard enough to strafe his rhythm and add enough ticks to the clock to once again push the record just out of reach. He covered his face with his hands as he crossed the line, but later wasn’t especially disappointed.
“I hit that last hurdle because I went really hard for the first nine, and stuff like this happens,” said Warholm, who has raced to the last two world titles.
“You know, I’m always telling myself to be a warrior when I go out on the track. I think I was rewarded by just going all in at the end and I got a great time. It's a great lesson for me to always run until the finish line.
“We learn. We learn.”
With his performance, Warholm illustrated that he may just be one or two competitions away from Young’s legendary mark. That sort of conjectures is, of course, easier said than done.
“It is, it certainly is that,” he said.
“But what is special about the 400m hurdles now, I feel like it’s a Renaissance. It’s probably one of the most competitive events in track and field right now with me, Rai Benjamin, Abderrahman Samba, Kyron McMaster, and a lot of other guys. So who knows who is going to get that record?
“I don't want to say that it’s me, but I’m always fighting to be the best I can be. I know it sounds like a cliché, but that’s actually what I do. And that’s what I’ve done through this difficult time and it pays off.”
But his key competitors have competed sparingly, if at all in 2020, and with his pair of blazing performances, the event’s spotlight will remain firmly focused on him. A more looming question is whether this coronavirus-bruised season will even provide Warholm with more opportunities to race.
“I’m not sure,” he said. “I need some time to schedule the rest of the season. The only thing I had planned was Monaco, then I added on Stockholm. The rest we’ll have to see.”
“It’s tough to get together a good schedule because the world is in these crazy times. It’s hard to say what happens next week or the week after that. All meets might be cancelled or may not be. We just have to wait and see. But I’m very happy about what I’ve done so far, and time will tell.”
For now, he’s going to continue training as if part of the season still remains. After all, it’s what he was born to do.
“I’m never going to stop training. I love track and field, I love waking up every day and doing the work.
“That is my life. That is what I live for. And hopefully I can keep doing that for many more years.”
Bob Ramsak for World Athletics