Karsten Warholm at the pre-meet press conference in Ostrava (© Bob Ramsak)
Fifteen days after his world record near-miss in Stockholm, Karsten Warholm finally divulged his strategy for that race.
"I saw that Kevin Young hit the last hurdle in his world record race so I thought I would try the same,” he said. “But it didn't work out that well for me.”
The two-time world 400m hurdles champion was probably kidding. But the way he’s made his two races of the Coronavirus pandemic-crippled season count is no joke.
Opening with a 47.10 performance in Monaco on 14 August, his first 400m hurdles race in 10 months, he followed up with a stunning 46.87 run in Stockholm nine days later to solidify his No2 position on the all-time list. His famously aggressive style and continually improved fitness is now turning his every appearance into a serious assault on Young’s 46.78 world record set at the 1992 Olympics. In Stockholm, a slight clip of the final barrier could have been the difference.
“So for next time, I’ll try to avoid that.”
Beginning tomorrow night at the World Athletics Continetal Tour Gold meeting in Ostrava on the same track where he suffered his last defeat when finishing third in the Continental Cup. Given the form he’s developed since, that late September competition in 2018 seems almost a lifetime ago.
He’s certainly upbeat about his return.
“I think the track here is really good, and looking at the weather report, it’s going to be good as well,” he said.
“I will give it my all like I always do. But you never have a guarantee for anything. Everybody is talking and thinking about the record. For me, it’s doing what I know I can do. And you never know what can happen. It’s important to always be the best version of myself - when I step onto the track tomorrow it is going to be the same."
For their part, organisers are trying their best to be accommodating. When it was first announced that Warholm was coming to Ostrava, this event was going to cap the evening - if not as the key highlight, then certainly one of them.
Now, they’ve decided to move his event to an earlier part of the programme to ensure the best possible conditions. It’s still to be confirmed, but it will likely start at about 18:40 local time. Warholm said he’s grateful for the move because he’s also ready.
“I feel good. My body is good. I feel my shape is good and I’m going to go out there and do my thing and hopefully there will be somebody starting the clock and somebody stopping the clock. That's all I need.”
For a season such as this one, that’s really all an athlete can ask for. But Warholm added that if forced to look, one can find some positive sides, competitively speaking, to the situation caused by the pandemic.
“I think actually a season like this gives people a chance to perform better,” he said. “We didn’t have to start the season in May or June. We didn’t have the Olympics to prepare for. We didn’t have the European Championships to prepare for anymore so you can choose meets as you want. And you can train longer and train more and train how you want to. So for those that can train and are motivated, this year can actually be a gift.”
“If you want to find a brighter perspective,” he continued, “this is a good thing. But I would of course like to have Olympics and European Championships. But when the situation isn’t that anymore it’s important to find a better way of looking at and that’s what we’ve been trying to do this year.”
Of course, he misses his key competitors, most of whom have apparently chosen to take most of this year off.
“I just have to keep on doing what I’m doing, I have to keep on running. I’m prepared whenever they’re prepared to step on the track again. You want to race the best guys - that’s best for the people watching and it’s best for the athletes pushing their limits. For now, I’m running because it’s what I like to do.”
And tomorrow, he’ll do so running in lane 8, just as he did in Stockholm.
“It’s just running and not caring about anyone else,” he said. “I actually like that way of running so I don’t know if it’s my new favourite lane, but right now it works very well.”
Hassan: ‘My goal is to run a PB’
Sifan Hassan returns to the track four days after breaking the world record in the one-hour run in Brussels, where she reached 18,930 metres in her 60-minute effort. She said the run took a bit out of here, but she’s ready to run faster, if not as far.
“I was tired the next day but now I feel fine. I ran this morning and I’ll run tomorrow morning, too,” a morning jog presumably to work on her race place for the evening’s 5000m race and her lofty ambitions. Her goal?
“My goal is to run a PB, 14:21 or something,” she said. That would mean an assault on her 14:22.12 European record in her final track race of the year before she turns her attentions to the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, Poland, next month.
J Ingebrigtsen late entry
When Jakob Ingebrigtsen expressed his late-hour interest to join the 1500m field, organisers found room. Still in strong form, the 19-year-old sensation said he wanted one last race against a strong field that would help him to another sub-3:30 performance.
Happy Birthday, Sam Kendricks
Two-time world pole vault champion Sam Kendricks returns to action hoping to finally get a taste of Ostrava's air from at least six metres off the ground. It would make for a nice belated present for the US star who celebrates his 28th birthday today.
“Well I've tried six times at six metres in Ostrava," he said. Tomorrow could certainly be another, but, he warned, "we have to get there first. We have to look at every height. We have to play to win first."
Kendricks was off to a somewhat rocky start this season but pulled things together well in Lausanne last week when he toppe 6.02m, the second highest vault of his career.
"This year I've really had to jump myself into shape. I can't remember a year where there wasn't a full season ahead of us. I need to compete to get into shape. I think I'm at the best fitness i can be right now."
Yet that 6.02m leap still didn't bring him a victory over world record holder Armand Duplantis who topped a world-leading 6.07m.
"It's a good symmetry for my career," he said, looking to Renaud Lavillenie who was sitting to his left. "I came up in the shadow of a world record holder and now I'm fighting not to be in the shadow of another."
Bob Ramsak for World Athletics