Karsten Warholm produced another scintillating display to successfully defend his 400m hurdles title at the IAAF World Athletics Championships on Monday (30) night in Doha to finish the season unbeaten in his specialist event.
The draw of lane four might have an uncustomary one for the reigning champion who has a penchant for an outside draw but the pre-race ritual remained the same as did his all-out aggressive approach to the event.
Warholm’s main challenger for the title was Rai Benjamin from the United States who pushed Warholm to a 46.92 clocking in the Zurich Diamond League last month and the final played out in a similar manner to that race at the Weltklasse in which two athletes broke the 47 second-barrier for the first time in the same race.
Warholm, who was drawn two lanes inside Benjamin on this occasion, had eked out a narrow lead on the American with two hurdles remaining. The home straight is where the former decathlete’s strength comes into play and Benjamin was unable to muster up a significant impact off the final barrier.
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Many observers posited this might be the race which would see Kevin Young’s long-standing world record of 46.78 displaced from the record books but Warholm, who opened his outdoor season exactly four months ago on 30 May in the Stockholm Diamond League, successfully retained his title in 47.42 - still faster than his pre-2019 PB - ahead of Benjamin in 47.66.
“It's easy to say afterwards this was going to happen but I wasn't too sure, to be honest. This was a very hard race,” said Warholm. “I had a pain in my chest, I thought I was going to die but here I am: world champion. I said to Leif [Olav Alnes] today I am going to dig deeper than I ever did. If my heart stops then you know I was happy while it happened.”
Warholm and his popular coach both toasted his victory with a glass of champagne albeit of the non-alcoholic variety as Warholm looks set to return to action tomorrow to contest the 400m heats.
“This is only the beginning for all of us. Tomorrow I've got to get up and work again,” he said.
Asher-Smith and Ortega progress fastest from heats
A silver medallist in the 100m last night, Dina Asher-Smith qualified fastest for tomorrow’s 200m semifinal in 22.32 ahead of the American trio of Brittany Brown (22.33), Anglerne Annelus (22.56) and Dezerea Bryant (22.56)
Asher-Smith has been widely touted as the favourite for the gold medal and her prospects have been further lifted by a spate of big name withdrawals including reigning two-time champion Dafne Schippers from the Netherlands who was unable to stage a sufficient recovery from a groin injury which forced her to withdraw from the 100m final.
Asher-Smith's teammate Adam Gemili made it through to the 200m final in promising fashion, winning the first semifinal in a season's best of 20.03 ahead of reigning world and European champion Ramil Guliyev in 20.16.
Olympic silver medallist Orlando Ortega produced a slick piece of hurdling from the outside lane to qualify fastest for the 110m hurdles. The Spaniard cruised to a 13.15 clocking, easing back as he crossed the finish line.
His training partner Milan Trajkovic from Cyprus set a season’s best of 13.37 to finish second in the first heat. Switzerland’s Jason Joseph produced a national record of 13.39 to safely progress from the second heat which was won by 2015 world champion Sergey Shubenkov in 13.27.
Christin Hussong from Germany headed the European interest in women’s javelin qualifying, progressing through to the final with her opening effort of 65.29m which handsomely exceeded the automatic qualifying mark of 63.50m. Reigning champion Barbora Spotakova made it through with her third throw of 62.15m while Olympic champion Sara Kolak progressed on distance with 60.99m.
Steven Mills for European Athletics