In Focus

Karsten Warholm smashes world record then slams ‘b******t’ super shoes

Norwegian stormed to gold in the 400m hurdles with a time of 45.94secs

Karsten Warholm obliterated the 400m hurdles world record to win gold on day 11 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The Norwegian track star clocked a time of 45.94secs to slash 0.76secs off the previous world record, set by him in Oslo in July. 

It’s near impossible for an athlete to run a perfect race, but the 25-year-old believes he has now come close. Speaking in the Tokyo Olympic Stadium, Warholm said: “You know the cliche that it hasn’t sunk in yet? I don’t think it has, but I feel ecstatic. I can’t believe the time, it’s so fast. A lot of the time I am asked about the perfect race. I said it didn’t exist but this is the closest I’ve ever come.”

Both Warholm and the USA’s Rai Benjamin went under the previous world record and in perfect conditions the longtime rivals “hurdled beautifully and were side by side coming into the final straight, only for Warholm to forge clear”, Sky Sports reports. 

Benjamin is “the American who broke a world record and lost”, said the Wall Street Journal. He delivered an unprecedented run in the 400m hurdles, but it wasn’t enough to beat Warholm to gold. Benjamin (46.17) finished second to win silver, while Brazil’s Alison dos Santos (46.72) won the bronze. 

“Some were calling this the greatest track and field race in history afterwards”, says The Guardian’s Sean Ingle, “and watching this 45.94sec symphony of destruction up close it was impossible to disagree”.

Warholm’s 400m hurdles time was so fast it “would have won him gold at this year’s British Championships… over the flat 400m”, said The Telegraph’s Ben Bloom on Twitter

‘Up there with Bolt’

In a “golden era” for the men’s 400m hurdles, this was “the Olympic final the event deserved”, CNN said. US star Benjamin called it the “best race in Olympic history” and the silver medallist added that “everyone in this event should be getting paid big bucks”.

Colin Jackson, the two-time 110m hurdles world champion, compared Warholm’s world record to Usain Bolt’s 9.58 in the 100m. “When you talk about world records, this is up there with Usain Bolt’s time of 9.58secs in the 100m and up there with Flo Jo’s 10.49secs in the 100m,” Jackson said on the BBC. “This is one of the most outstanding world records and I’m pretty sure that world record will outlive me. It’s just breathtaking. Wow. I am truly in shock.”

Norway’s Karsten Warholm won gold ahead of American Rai Benjamin

Norway’s Karsten Warholm won gold ahead of American Rai Benjamin

Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images

‘It takes credibility away from our sport’

In the wake of his world record Warholm ignited a row about shoe technology when he called his nearest rival’s super spikes “bullshit”, The Telegraph reports. The Norwegian insisted there was a difference between his shoes and Benjamin’s and said his great rival “ran on air”. 

Warholm’s Puma EvoSpeed Future Faster+ shoes, which feature a carbon-fibre plate to aid with energy transfer, have been developed in conjunction with Puma and the Mercedes Formula 1 team. As well as a carbon-fibre plate, Benjamin’s Nike Air Zoom Maxfly spikes add an air pod underneath the forefoot to provide a bounce effect, The Telegraph adds. 

“If you put a trampoline there I think it’s bullshit,” Warholm said. “I think it takes credibility away from our sport. I don’t see why you should put anything beneath a sprinting shoe.

“What I can say about the shoes that I’ve been developing in a collaboration between Puma and the Mercedes Formula 1 team is that we’re trying to make it as credible as it can be.

“Yes, we have the carbon plate but we have tried to make it as thin as possible because that’s the way that I would like to do it. Of course, technology will always be there but I also want to keep it down to a level where we can actually compare results. That’s important.”

‘No one will do what we just did’

Meanwhile, Benjamin had his own explanation, The Guardian reports. “It’s a very good track. It’s soft, it has a lot of give, it’s a phenomenal track,” the American said. “People say it’s the track, the shoes, and the conditions were really good. But I could wear different shoes and still run fast.

“No one will do what we just did, I don’t care who you are. Could be Kevin Young, Edwin Moses, respect to those guys, but they cannot run what we just ran just now. It’s a really fast track, it felt good, the conditions were really good.”

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