Nor­we­gian neo­phyte needed a pinch of proof

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

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.”

‘Pinch 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.”

JOHN SI­B­LEY / REUTERS

Karsten Warholm of Nor­way cel­e­brates his vic­tory in the 400m hur­dles fi­nal on Wed­nes­day.

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