Norwegian athlete reflects on breaking 400m hurdles world record in Oslo.
Karsten Warholm claimed one of the oldest world records in athletics on Thursday evening after he took 0.08s out of Kevin Young’s 29-year-old 400m hurdles best in front of an Oslo home crowd at the Bislett Games.
American Young had previously earned his 46.78s world record in 1992 with Norwegian Warholm looking on track to beat it after a senior career that has seen him win two outdoor World Championship gold medals and two European Championship golds indoors and out.
After becoming the Diamond League overall winner during an unbeaten 2019, Warholm went into the 2021 Diamond League meeting in Oslo looking to give his home fans something to cheer about and – in his first race of the outdoor season – the 25-year-old kept a cool, steady rhythm then powered down the home straight to claim a world record of 46.70s ahead of Brazil’s Alison dos Santos and Turkey’s Yasmani Copello.
Here is what Warholm had to say on Friday afternoon from his Oslo home after a magical night:
What are you feeling like today after such an amazing night?
Today, I have just tried to cool down and do some golfing. It is hard to get some sleep as the adrenaline is pumping and my race yesterday was pretty late. I am racing in Monaco next Friday, so I need to get ready.
How important was it to break the world record in front of a home crowd?
It was very special for me. I train in Bislett many times a week as I live in Oslo so, for me, it is a home stadium. It was the biggest event in Norway since the start of the pandemic, so everybody was really eager to be there and cheer for a Norwegian athlete. It was like the perfect moment to be able to do that in those circumstances. It was a great feeling and it couldn’t have been better, even if I had tried to write a book about it or something. To me, it was the biggest dream coming true. You need to go all the way back to the likes of (Sebastian) Coe, (Steve) Cram and (Steve) Ovett when Bislett was called the world-record track. These guys were pushing the world record all the time, but there haven’t been a lot of world records at the Bislett Stadium in recent years so it was a proud moment for me to be able to put some light on it again.
Were you confident that you could break it based on your recent training?
We always try to focus on training with high quality, that is why I don’t race that much because I don’t need races to get ready for championships. That is one of the special things we do, we make sure that we train on the same level that we need to be when we reach competition. You tend to improve because competition always gives you that extra edge, but I know that I am always able to perform if I go to the starting line. I have been cancelling some meets and just waiting for the right moment to start the season and Bislett was perfect for me.
Have you been training with other hurdles athletes back home?
When I am in training, I just compete against the timer. My coach (Leif Olav Alnes) has the timer and we have all these benchmarks for times that we want to match and we always push ourselves towards them. I think it is a good thing.
Have the fast performances of American rival Rai Benjamin helped push you even more?
Absolutely. Competitors are a beautiful thing, but also a thing that makes you more nervous and think about it more. Everybody wants to win and, when someone is putting on great performances, you know that you need to raise the bar as well to be in that company going into a major championship. When they are posting great times, I feel the pressure on myself to do the same and I think those things push me towards being the best version of myself.
Did the crowd’s loud home support help push you even more?
It was very special because, when I walked onto the track, everybody started really cheering for me and standing up from their chairs. I was like, ‘Damn, these people actually think that I am just going to walk out there and put on a world record! They almost expect it’. That big pressure is very hard to deal with but, at the same time, it is also a very nice thing because when people expect something like that from you, you know that you are in a good place and, somehow, I felt like it gave me a bit of confidence as well. I felt like everybody there believed in me and it was actually a very comforting feeling because, if all these people believe in me, I should be able to believe in myself also.
You seem a very confident person on track, but do you have any doubts in private?
I think all athletes get nervous and start to overthink at some point. Those are the feelings that all people need to deal with in everyday life, but I think it is not pushing these thoughts away but processing these thoughts. I have a coach who is really experienced and been through all these things. He knows all the thoughts that can plant in your head and it is important to talk about them and to be aware of them. Of course, when you deal with these thoughts I think it is much easier to be comfortable and confident, go out there, enjoy yourself and try to reach your potential.
What did you work on specifically with your coach in the off season to improve your technique further?
I think the main thing is that I have become faster. I just have more pace and I am stronger. I have been doing some lifting and getting some muscle. My engine is bigger and it can handle even more. I did some progress in the speed work and that is what we can see in the race like yesterday as well.
Can you go unbeaten this year like you did in 2019?
I spoke with coach about that. This unbeaten thing can become a big trap because we always want to be in the position where we attack and I don’t want to be in a position where I am afraid to lose. I want to always take chances and try to reach my full potential. I try not to think about it too much. Of course I always want to win, but I don’t count my winning streak. In championships, anything can happen so it is about being ready and being prepared.
Have you managed to talk with the previous record holder Kevin Young?
I actually FaceTimed him with the Norwegian national broadcaster, so I was able to have a minute’s talk with him last night. He wanted to keep his record as long as possible, but I think that in our sport 29 years is way, way overdue and he knew that as well. To me it seemed like he was happy that the new generation now is moving the event forward. It is cool that he takes it that way and he wants us to succeed, even though the record was in his name for a long time.