The World Athletics site just called it “one of the best races in history”!
They are not wrong. I am stunned.
I have been looking forward to this battle for some time, and it did not disappoint. I did want to see Rai Benjamin, my countryman, be victorious, but I must say, Karsten Warholm has complete mastery of this race!
Karsten Warholm began his journey into the 400m hurdles in 2014. In 2014, his PB was 52.20 at the 400m hurdles.
The Norwegian is tough. In 2016, he won the European U23 at 400m and also at the decathlon!
In London 2017, he was in his first season as an intermediate hurdler and his background as a decathlete. His strength, his speed, and his focus put him in the right place in London. His win in London was a big surprise to the World Athletics.
In 2018, Warholm took the European Athletics title and set a European U23 record for the 400m hurdles. Warholm had embraced the 400m hurdles, and he and his coach knew it was his present and future.
In 2019, Warholm picked up a couple of competitors, in Abderaham Samba (Qatar) and Rai Benjamin (USA). At the Doha 2019 WC, Karsten defended his 2017 London title. Benjamin took silver, just weeks after a debilitating bruise, which kept him from training for two weeks (he took silver in 400m hurdles and gold in the 4x400m), and Abderaham Samba took bronze.
The nightmare of the pandemic hit in 2020, yet Warholm raced most of the season, from 300 meters indoors to some exciting 400m hurdle races all season long. In fact, Warholm and Sweden’s Mondo Duplantis kept track fans entertained with their competitions in 2020.
2021 has been insane.
In June 2021, at the US Olympic Trials, Rai Benjamin went 46.84 in the Trials, running the then second time in history.
Well, Karsten Warhlom opened up in Oslo and destroyed the WR set by Kevin Young in 1992 with his 46.70.
These two times set up the event for Tokyo.
In the first heat, both Warholm and Benjamin showed their fitness. It was in the semi final, where Warholm and Benjamin faced each other, with Warholm taking the nod, 47.32 to 47.37.
The final was even better than expected.
Both Karsten Warholm and Rai Benjamin got out well, and by the 300m, Warholm, Benjamin and Dos Santos were in the right positions. But no one was running slow! In fact, the race set records for finishing times in places 1-8!
Both Karsten Warholm and Rai Benjamin came almost next to each other after hurdle eight. But, Warholm would not let Benjamin pass him and that is as close as he would get.
Karsten Warholm battled over hurdles 9 and 10 with Rai Benjamin, and pushed through the finish line, breaking 46 seconds, with his 45.94 World record! Rai Benjamin went 46.17, also under Warholm’s old WR. Alison Do Santos went 46.72, going under the WR of Kevin Young!
Warholm was ecstatic and Benjamin was devastated.
A few minutes later, Rai Benjamin spoke with NBC’s Lewis Johnson. He said: “I gave it everything I had. It is what it is. I tried to develop my own race, I ran up on a few hurdles, cost me the gold medal, but it is fine, I have the world championships soon.
Rai Benjamin was very emotional, teared up when he saw his Mother and family on zoom. One could hear him say, “Sorry Mom”. This writer understands his frustration but hope he knows most Americans would be so proud of him for running his very best and getting an Olympic silver medal.
Karston Warholm also spoke to Lewis Johnson. ” It has been tough. I have been working hard. I was pleased that I did not over compete! It has been about this Olympics. I have to say, Rai Benjamin ran 46.17 to take silver! He deserves the gold medal too. So does Alison Dos Santos.”
Warholm continued with Lewis Johnson:
“You can not get any closer to a perfect race. Did not touch a hurdle, whoo, Just so big. The only thing missing from my medals was the Olympic gold medal. I knew that this was going to be toughest of my life.”
What does this say about the future of the event? What we have is athletes who are better than anyone before them. Warholm and Benjamin are tremendous all around athletes and their focus should not be under estimated.
I believe that they both can go faster, but, tonight was sublime. It was one of the finest races I have ever seen!