TOKYO: Norway’s Karsten Warholm smashed his own world record to win the Olympic men’s 400m hurdles gold today.
Touted as one of the stand-out events of the 10-day track and field programme at the Olympic Stadium, the cream of a very good hurdling crop did not fail to deliver in a thrilling race in stifling midday heat and humidity.
Warholm clocked a remarkable 45.94s, beating his previous world best of 46.70s.
To put that performance into perspective, only four runners in history have even clocked sub-47s times, let alone sub-46s.
American arch-rival Rai Benjamin won silver in 46.17s, with Brazil’s Alison Dos Santos claiming bronze in 46.72s, both regional records that also smashed their previous personal bests.
As the Norwegian, with minimum upper body movement as he negotiated the early hurdles, hit the final 200m well ahead of the field, the question was whether he could keep his rhythm and pace.
Benjamin had not given up hope and pushed down the home straight, coming almost neck-and-neck on the 10th and last hurdle.
Warholm, teeth gritted and head flailing, looked like he might tie up to hand the American victory.
But from somewhere, the Norwegian two-time world champion dug deep and found just enough energy for an extra spurt that saw him surge through the line.
Eyes bulging at the world record time flashed up on the big screen, Warholm roared and spontaneously ripped open his shirt amid gasps from sparse pockets of fellow athletes and team officials at the Olympic Stadium.