Hat’s my boy! Warholm roars to 400m hurdles glory

Karsten Warholm after winning the 400m hurdles at the IAAF World Championships London 2017
European Athletics

Karsten Warholm after winning the 400m hurdles at the IAAF World Championships London 2017

Every gold medal picture tells its story so the old saying goes but few photos are like those of Karsten Warholm after the end of the 400m hurdles on Wednesday night.

Norway’s sensational young star created his own piece of history with a stunning win at the IAAF World Championships London 2017, followed by an expression which will stay with him for a lifetime.

As he crossed the line, Warholm looked at the big screen to make sure victory was his, just to be sure.

When the result flashed up, his mouth opened wide and his eyes almost popped out, his hands covered his face, his fingers wrapped around his bottom lip.

It was almost a look of horror.

Could it be real? Could he really be the world champion?

Karsten Warholm at the IAAF World Championships London 2017
Karsten Warholm at the IAAF World Championships London 2017

Warholm, just 21, fell to his knees as he tried to digest what he had just achieved amid the rain and wind and cold, where he took on the world and never gave them a chance.

He had won in 48.35 beating Turkey’s reigning European champion Yasmani Copello, second in 48.49, with USA’s Rio 2016 Olympic Games champion, Kerron Clement, third in 48.52.

Interviewed trackside, Warholm said: “I truly don't believe it. I have worked so hard for this but I don't know what I have done. It is an amazing feeling. I am world champion, that's crazy.”

He then went off on a memorable lap of honour with a Norwegian flag draped around him, wearing a Viking hat, falling into the long jump pit to celebrate and wanting this moment to last forever.

As for the hat, Warholm said: "I found it in the crowd and it just felt right. I thought it was suitable for the occasion. It is cold and wet like Norway so I guess it [the conditions] suited me."

Karsten Warholm at the IAAF World Championships London 2017
Karsten Warholm at the IAAF World Championships London 2017

Only a few weeks after winning the 400m hurdles gold medal in a championship record of 48.37 – and 400m silver – at the European Athletics U23 Championships, Warholm had become Norway’s first track gold medallist at a world championships for 30 years.

Not since the legendary Ingrid Kristiansen won the 10,000m in Rome in 1987 has the nation owned a running title at the world championships, with their last track medal being Vebjorn Rodal’s bronze in the 1500m in Gothenburg in 1995.
Two years ago, Warholm was a double silver medallist at the European U20 Championships, audaciously mixing the decathlon with the 400m.

He seemed then a star for the long-term future but 2017 has been an extraordinary year with him breaking the national 400m record with 44.87 in Floro in June, just five days before smashing the 400m hurdles mark with 48.25 as he won in front of family and friends at the famous Bislett Games, the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Oslo.

On Wednesday, he was quick to praise the work of his coach, Arve Hatloy.

“A lot of hard work and dedication has got me here, so thank you to my coach for getting me in a position to challenge for a world title,” said Warholm.

“I hope people back in Norway are as happy as I am. Decathlon gave me a really good base coming into the hurdles. All the credit goes to my coach for making me a world-class hurdler.”

In a gripping final, Warholm simply went for it from the gun it was a tactic that he has used in all his big races this season and it worked with aplomb.

Karsten Warholm after winning the 400m hurdles at the IAAF World Championships London 2017
Karsten Warholm after winning the 400m hurdles at the IAAF World Championships London 2017

An exhausted Karsten Warholm after winning the 400m hurdles at the IAAF World Championships London 2017

He has become a force of nature in the event because he takes it on head-first, attacking the barriers from the outset so that his rivals put off-guard and left to ponder how to react.

Do they go with him? Do they hope he runs out of steam? Do they bide their time?

It is the essence of his brilliance that even at this tender age, and lack of experience at the event, that he can control a race from way he starts; and what an outcome for a man who is in only his second season in the 400m hurdles.

Running from lane five, he had Clement on his inside but that did not trouble him.

He never lost his stride pattern, increasing his speed and thus his lead along the back straight and hitting the second bend with a good advantage.

At the turn into the home straight it seemed he might tire but he had enough in reserve to allow for any blip.

None came. Clement and Copello, out in lane nine, moved closer as they went over the final barrier but Warholm held on.

It was another glorious one-two for Europe and ahead is the mouthwatering prospect of Warholm facing defending champion Copello in Berlin next August when the German capital stages the 2018 European Athletics Championships as part of the first multisport European Championships along with co-hosts Glasgow.

When Copello won the European title in Amsterdam last summer, Warholm was sixth having broken the national record with 48.84 in the semi-finals but unable to sustain his momentum in the final. How quickly has the tide turned with the Turkish star now delighted with his silver medal.

“To win a World Championships medal is my dream, I am so happy,” said Copello. “My coach just told me to relax and now I have a medal. It's been an incredible experience.”

Warholm knew exactly what he meant.