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Warholm thriving in ultra-competitive 400m hurdles

The blot on Karsten Warholm’s storied track landscape was a botched comeback at last year’s world championships, but the Norwegian insists that is well behind him in what is proving to be an ultra-competitive 400m hurdles.

Warholm produced one of the most memorable Olympic victories in history when hurdling to gold in Tokyo in a stunning world record of 45.94sec two years ago. To get a better understanding of that performance, just 200 athletes have bettered the time this season over 400m flat.

But the former two-time world champion was then beset by a hamstring injury and could only finish seventh at the world championships in Eugene, although he did rebound to win a second European crown in Munich a month later.

“It was tough being humiliated!” Warholm said Thursday ahead of the Diamond League meeting in Monaco.

“It was tough being at the world champs last year — good memories now, we laugh about it!

“I was obviously not fully prepared. But I’m a competitor, I will never back down. I’m not going to lie, when I was standing in the final, I thought I was going to win. I didn’t obviously, I finished seventh!”

The gold medallist that day was Brazilian Alison Dos Santos, for whom Friday’s race in Monaco will be his first over the hurdles this season as he comes back from a “completely weird” injury sustained while doing a plank exercise.

“It’s the perfect time to come back to the track, I’m fit and healthy, I’ll give my all tomorrow,” said the Brazilian who won Olympic bronze behind Warholm and American silver medallist Rai Benjamin in Tokyo.

Record will fall

Both Warholm and Dos Santos admitted to thriving amid the competitive cut-and-thrust of the 400m hurdles.

“It’s amazing to be part of this group. When you turn up at the track you don’t know who’s going to win,” said Dos Santos.

Warholm added: “There are a lot of competitive guys pushing each other. Whenever you run against someone who is super good you know you need to push.

“We don’t have the luxury of controlling our own times, we run to win. If it’s fast, it’s fast.

“It will always be tough when Alison is lining up… I never cash in victories beforehand.

“I’m going to give it my all, that’s the only guarantee I can give. Every time I step on to the track I will run to win and hopefully the other guys will as well, that’s why we race.”

Warholm acknowledged that his world record would, one day, likely fall.

“I think you’re just lending records, you never know how long the lease will be,” the Norwegian said. “I’ve done it once before so I know it’s possible. The other guys have seen it’s possible and people are getting closer.

“The medals will be forever, records will be broken and that’s why we run. There’s a new era now and things are going faster than they did historically.

“We’re changing the whole statistics and I’m proud of it. You need to push each other to achieve greatness.”

Warholm, who predicted that the world championships in Budapest on August 19-27 would be “quite an open competition”, nevertheless had a parting shot.

“I’m never afraid to lose, but I’m really afraid not to have progress. I always try to push.”