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.”
Born: Ulsteinvik, 28 February 1996. Coach: Leif Olav Alnes.
When Karsten Warholm first emerged on the international scene in 2013, it was clear that the young Norwegian was a huge talent.
He won the world U18 octathlon title in Donetsk with a margin of almost 200 points, and some of his marks in the eight disciplines would have been competitive in the individual finals.
Moving up to the U20 age group, and now taking on 10 disciplines in the decathlon, he continued to improve across the board and earned silver medals in the decathlon and 400m at the 2015 European U20 Championships in Eskilstuna – despite the 400m final taking place in the middle of the decathlon.
Throughout that season he broke national U20 records in a range of events indoors and outdoors, from the 200m and sprint hurdles to the long jump and decathlon. His indoor 400m best of 47.25, meanwhile, was a national senior indoor record.
But in 2016, his first year as a senior athlete, Warholm decided that decathlon’s 10 disciplines were not quite enough, so he took on another challenge: the 400m hurdles – a discipline that some refer to as the ‘man killer’ event.
He had dabbled with it as a teenager, but 2016 was the first season in which the 400m hurdles was his main focus. The early signs were promising; in his first race of the season, he broke the national record with 49.62. By the end of that year, he had reached the European final, made it to the Olympic semifinals, and reduced his best to 48.49. He had finally found his calling.
When he opened his 2017 campaign, it was clear Warholm was going to be a force that season. He clocked a national record of 48.25 to win at the Diamond League meeting in Oslo on home soil, beating Olympic champion Kerron Clement and Olympic bronze medallist Yasmani Copello in the process.
His winning streak continued at the Diamond League meeting in Stockholm and the European U23 Championships in Bydgoszcz. By the time he arrived at the World Championships in London, he was very much considered a medal contender. Despite being the youngest in the field, and with heavy rain preventing faster times, Warholm charged to gold in 48.35.
“I truly don’t believe it,” he said afterwards, celebrating with a Viking-style hat on his head. “I’ve worked so hard for this but I don’t know what I have done. This is an amazing feeling.”
Warholm continued his habit of strong season openers in 2018, setting a huge lifetime best of 47.82 in Rome. This time, however, he had to settle for second place behind Qatar’s Abderraman Samba, who became the event’s dominant force that year. While Samba won all six of their clashes in 2018, Warholm enjoyed a moment of glory at the European Championships in Berlin, winning with a national record of 47.64.
The Warholm-Samba rivalry continued in 2019, only this time with a third challenger in the form of USA’s Rai Benjamin. Winner of the NCAA title in 2018 in 47.02, Benjamin embarked on his first full professional season in 2019 and regularly lined up against Warholm and Samba on the international circuit.
Warholm, however, came out on top each time, winning all of his competitions – indoors, outdoors, on the flat and over hurdles. He broke the European record on three occasions, clocking 47.33 in Oslo, 47.12 in London and 46.92 in Zurich, moving to the No.2 spot on the world all-time list.
The men’s 400m hurdles was one of the most anticipated events of the World Championships in Doha, and Warholm duly delivered, winning gold in 47.42 with Benjamin and Samba taking silver and bronze respectively.
“It’s easy to say afterwards that this was going to happen but I wasn’t too sure, to be honest,” Warholm said. “This was a very hard race. I had a pain in my chest, I thought I was going to die but here I am world champion.”
The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games means that Warholm will have to wait an extra year before having another shot at earning an Olympic medal, but he was determined not to waste all of the hard work he has put in for the 2020 season.
He opened his season on home soil at Oslo’s ‘Impossible Games’ and sped to a world 300m hurdles best of 33.78. Two months later, in his first 400m hurdles race for almost 11 months, he won at the Diamond League meeting in Monaco in 47.10. And then, on 23 August, he went even quicker at the Diamond League meeting in Stockholm.
Despite clattering the final hurdle, he came away with the second-fastest performance in history – 46.87 – just 0.09 shy of Kevin Young’s world record that was set at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
Later in the programme, Warholm won the 400m flat in 45.05, just 0.18 outside his PB. Needless to say, it is the best ever one-day 400m flat-hurdles double.
“I’m always fighting to be the best I can be,” he said after his races in Stockholm. “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.”
Warholm’s 400m hurdles progression
- 52.20 Haugesund, 6 Sep 2014
- 51.09 Haugesund, 31 Jul 2015
- 49.62 Floro, 4 Jun 2016
- 49.45 Gothenburg, 1 Jul 2016
- 48.84 Amsterdam, 7 Jul 2016
- 48.49 Rio, 15 Aug 2016
- 48.25 Oslo, 15 Jun 2017
- 48.22 Zurich, 24 Aug 2017
- 47.82 Rome, 31 May 2018
- 47.81 Stockholm, 10 Jun 2018
- 47.65 London, 21 Jul 2018
- 47.64 Berlin, 9 Aug 2018
- 47.33 Oslo, 13 Jun 2019
- 47.12 London, 20 Jul 2019
- 46.92 Zurich, 29 Aug 2019
- 46.87 Stockholm, 23 Aug 2020
- 60m: 6.75
- 100m: 10.52 / 10.49i
- 200m: 20.91i
- 400m: 44.87 / 45.05i
- 110m hurdles: 14.30
- 300m hurdles: 33.78
- 400m hurdles: 46.87
- High jump: 2.05m
- Long jump: 7.66m
- Decathlon: 7764 (U20)
400m hurdles world all-time list
- 46.78 Kevin Young (USA) Barcelona 1992
- 46.87 Karsten Warholm (NOR) Stockholm 2020
- 46.98 Abderrahman Samba (QAT) Paris 2018
- 46.98 Rai Benjamin (USA) Zurich 2019
- 47.02 Ed Moses (USA) Koblenz 1983
- 47.03 Bryan Bronson (USA) New Orleans 1998
- 47.10 Samuel Matete (ZAM) Zurich 1991
- 47.19 Andre Phillips (USA) Seoul 1988
- 47.23 Amadou Dia Ba (SEN) Seoul 1988
- 47.24 Kerron Clement (USA) Carson 2005
400m hurdles world record progression
- 49.5h Glenn Davis (USA) Los Angeles 1956
- 49.2h Glenn Davis (USA) Budapest 1958
- 49.2h Salvatore Morale (ITA) Belgrade 1962
- 49.1h Rex Cawley (USA) Los Angeles 1964
- 48.8h Geoff Vanderstock (USA) Echo Summit 1968
- 48.1h David Hemery (GBR) Mexico City 1968
- 47.8h John Akii-Bua (UGA) Munich 1972
- 47.64 Ed Moses (USA) Montreal 1976
- 47.45 Ed Moses (USA) Westwood 1977
- 47.13 Ed Moses (USA) Milan 1980
- 47.02 Ed Moses (USA) Koblenz 1983
- 46.78 Kevin Young (USA) Barcelona 1992
Top combined 400m/400m hurdles times
(based on World Athletics scoring tables)
1 Angelo Taylor (USA) 44.05 / 47.25 (2518)
2 Rai Benjamin (USA) 44.31 / 46.98 (2513)
3 Abderrahman Samba (QAT) 44.60 / 46.98 (2493)
4 Kerron Clement (USA) 44.48 / 47.24 (2487)
5 Karsten Warholm (NOR) 44.87 / 46.87 (2480)
6 Andre Phillips (USA) 44.71 / 47.19 (2474)
7 Kevin Young (USA) 45.11 / 46.78 (2468)
8 Samuel Matete (ZAM) 44.88 / 47.10 (2467)
9 Felix Sanchez (DOM) 44.90 / 47.25 (2458)
10 Harald Schmid (FRG) 44.92 / 47.48 (2444)
10 Bershawn Jackson (USA) 45.06 / 47.30 (2444)
Best one-day 400m/400m hurdles doubles
- 91.92 (45.05 / 46.87) Karsten Warholm (NOR) Stockholm 2020
- 92.87 (45.25 / 47.62) Felix Sanchez (DOM) Paris 2002
- 93.16 (45.31 / 47.85) Harald Schmid (FRG) Turin 1979
- 93.20 (45.04 / 48.16) Angelo Taylor (USA) Baie Mahault 2010
- 93.22 (45.14 / 48.08) Felix Sanchez (DOM) London 2002