Norwegian neophyte needed a pinch of proof
LONDON — Norwegian Karsten Warholm aped artist Edvard Munch’s famous portrait The Scream when he realized he had won the men’s 400m hurdles title on Wednesday.
And his victory could prove as valuable to the sport as the painting is to the Norwegian tourism industry.
Athletics is desperately seeking new and quirky characters to fill the huge vacuum that will be left by the retirements of Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt and, to a lesser extent, British distance legend Mo Farah.
Warholm just might fill the bill. He’s only 21 years old and exhibited an exciting style of hurdling, showing no fear in leading from the gun to the tape and leaving one of the alltime greats, Kerron Clement, trailing in his wake.
Not bad for someone who was doing the decathlon not so long ago.
He has taken to hurdles like a duck to water.
“I truly don’t believe it,” said Warholm, who donned a Viking hat on his lap of honor.
“I’ve worked so hard for this, but I don’t know what I have done.
“This is an amazing feeling. I’m the world champion. That’s crazy!”
Warholm, who hails from the tiny town of Ulsteinvik — population just over 6,000 — said in self-deprecatory fashion that he wouldn’t be able to run any other way.
“I have one way to do it, and I did it,” he said. “I’m young, I’m stupid. Going hard works for me.”
It only dawned on Warholm that he had become a world champion when he made a Reuters photographer an offer he could not refuse.
Still barely able to comprehend what had happened aft- er becoming Norway’s first world track champion in 30 years, Warholm was down on his haunches after being handed a flag to parade when he looked straight at photographer Phil Noble.
“What’s going on, is this real?” the 21-year-old asked Noble.
When assured it was, Warholm still wasn’t satisfied. “Pinch me,” he demanded.
A surprised Noble reached over and did as he was told, pinching the youngster’s wrist, at which point Warholm concurred.
“Yes, it’s real” he said before taking his lap of honor.
Warholm, who hinted he could be a danger when he won at the Bislett Games and then Stockholm Diamond League meets earlier this year, said he didn’t want to sound arrogant but he wouldn’t have stood a chance of winning if he’d lacked self-belief.
“I think everyone has to believe they will become a world champion,” he said.
“These two (silver and bronze medalists Yasmani Copello and Clement) are good competitors and I have respect for them.
“This event was wide open so I’m not saying I’m a better runner, it was just my day. The times were not that good as there were challenging conditions, but that didn’t matter. It was all about the win.”
Bone of contention
Warholm said accepting his coach’s advice to switch to the hurdles had not been a bone of contention.
“It wasn’t that hard for him,” he said. “We are on the same frequency — we both have very bad sense of humor.
“We felt it (400m hurdles) was working over the winter, so we gave it a shot. He is a great guy.”
Warholm also made light of the terrible weather conditions which saw the final take place in pouring rain.
“For me this is a Norwegian summer,” he joked.
“There were no worries, it is almost an advantage for me. You have to take it as it is.”
However, before athletics chiefs get too excited about the prospect of Warholm being one of the new poster boys, he also knows that sport can be a fickle friend.
“This sport is like porcelain — you can crack at any time,” he said.
“I could suddenly fall on my way into the train.”
Karsten Warholm of Norway celebrates his victory in the 400m hurdles final on Wednesday.