Karsten Warholm became the first European to run under 47 seconds for the 400m hurdles as he stopped the clock in a continental record 46.92 at the IAAF Diamond League final on Thursday.
Anticipation had been high for weeks that the barrier could be breached after the Norwegian’s series of sparkling times around the international circuit this summer including his former European record of 47.12 set in London six weeks ago, and the Zurich meeting organisers astutely left the event to last on the Diamond League programme.
The gun went and Warholm blazed out of his blocks, the first to rise over the opening eight barriers, and he built up a big lead over his principle rival Rai Benjamin, of the USA, coming off the second bend.
However, approaching the penultimate hurdle Warholm stuttered slightly and had to chop his stride, clearly losing momentum. Benjamin almost got onto his shoulder, but the reigning world and European champion had the strength and speed to hold off his American rival for a splendid win.
Not only was his time a European record by 0.2, it also moved Warholm up from seventh to second on the world all-time list as well as being a meeting and Diamond League record.
No more words required!pic.twitter.com/HHNuuPV6PU
— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) August 30, 2019
Benjamin was second in 46.98, making it the first ever race in which two men had gone under 47 seconds.
Into the bargain, the pair’s performances came in front of the USA’s Kevin Young who has held the world record at 46.78 since 1992 and who the meeting organisers had flown in especially for the occasion.
Young must now know that his record is probably living on borrowed time and that the forthcoming IAAF World Championships in Doha could be the stage for Warholm to become the first European to top the global lists in this event since Great Britain’s David Hemery held that honour between 1968 and 1972.
Like Warholm, Sifan Hassan, Andrii Protsenko and Magnus Kirt also went to bed $50,000 richer on Thursday night after winning their specialist events in Zurich.
The Netherlands’ Hassan has become used to winning titles and having some very big paydays in recent years – including winning the Diamond League 1500m back in 2015 – and added to her collection of cash and accolades buy going through the gears with 300 metres remaining in the women’s 1500m.
As soon as she hit top speed, it seemed unlikely that anyone would get close and that proved to be the case as she uncorked a 57.71 last lap to take the plaudits in 3.57.08.
“I'm very happy with my race, it was like a real championship race, it was crazy,” reflected Hassan.
— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) August 30, 2019
Post-race, the Dutchwoman suggested that she had expected the early pace to be even faster and anticipating challenging her national record of 3:55.30 set last month in Monaco and, indeed, the time over the first 800m was almost three seconds down on the proscribed 2:05 at that point.
Behind Hassan, her frequent training partner Konstanze Klosterhalfen also found an impressive turn of speed off the final bend and the German went from fourth to second down the home straight before finishing in 3:59.02.
“I have the same training programmes as Sifan and I know that can do the same like her. This gives me a lot of strength, training with her in the same group. My next race will be in Brussels and after that our group will leave for St Moritz for the final preparation for Doha,” said Klosterhalfen.
Ukraine’s Protsenko has jumped higher than he did on Thursday and is a member of the very select group of jumpers who have cleared 2.40m but his victory in the Swiss city as the only man over 2.32m was arguably his best ever competitive performance after series of second and third places over more than a decade at major international competitions.
Coincidentally, his best major championship performance also came in the Letzigrund Stadium as it was here that he won the 2014 European Athletics Championships silver medal.
— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) August 29, 2019
Protsenko had an almost flawless series up to and including his winning height, his first time clearance at 2.32m being his best jump since the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Three failures at 2.34m brought his night, the biggest payday of his career, to an end but his third attempt was very close and in a year when no high jumper has stood out from the crowd, Protsenko will have a chance in Doha of adding his name to a long list of Ukrainian high jump greats such as former world record holders Volodymyr Yaschenko and Rudolf Povarnitsyn as well as ex-world champions Yuriy Krymarenko and Bohdan Bondarenko.
Estonia’s Kirt languished down in fourth place going into the final round despite his fourth-round 85.68m but he launched his last effort of the night out to 89.13m, his fourth competition over 89 metres this year.
He then had an agonising couple of minutes watching three men who had started the sixth round in front of him take their turns.
However, none of them could top his performance and the 2018 European bronze medallist took the fourth European victory of the night just a few minutes after Warholm’s feat.
There was a final twist in the men's Javelin.
World leader Magnus Kirt left it very very late! But he made a decisive final throw of 89.13 to just clinch the Diamond Trophy from Cheng Chao-Tsun!#ZurichDL #DLFinal pic.twitter.com/NX3FK7Nfw7
— IAAF Diamond League (@Diamond_League) August 29, 2019
Among the two men Kirt overtook in the last round, Germany's Andreas Hofmann finished third with 87.49m and Marcin Krukowski was fourth with 85.72m.
European leading time for Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith and Germany’s Gesa Felicitas Krause were also posted in the women’s 200m and 3000m steeplechase respectively.
Asher-Smith provide a fine display of sprinting and finished in 22.08 but there was little the Briton could do to reel in Bahamas’ rampant Shaunae Uibo-Miller who sped to 21.74, the fastest time in the world for four years.
Krause played her part in an enthralling battle over the barriers but had to settle for fifth behind four Kenyans, lead home by world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech in 9:01.71, but Krause was rewarded with a national record of 9:07.51 to move up from seventh to third on the European all-time list.
In the pole vault, Sweden’s 2018 European champion Armand Duplantis couldn’t quite reach the heights he achieved at the Finnkampen meeting last weekend when he went over 6.00m but still finished with a satisfactory second place in 5.83m, without a failure until the bar went up to 5.93 with only the USA’s Sam Kendricks could clear.
Poland’s former European indoor champion Piotr Lisek also cleared 5.83m but on his second attempt so had to settle for third on the night.