Karsten Warholm is seen setting a new 400 m hurdles World Record (46.70s) at home in Oslo, Norway at the Bislett Games on July 1, 2021.
© Daniel Tengs/Red Bull Content Pool

The 400m hurdles world record wasn't ready to face Karsten Warholm

Norwegian hurdles king Karsten Warholm breaks a long-standing athletics record, setting a new time of 46.70s in his first outdoor race of the year.
Written by Matthew Ogborn
6 min readPublished on
Karsten Warholm has broken one of the oldest world records in athletics after he beat Kevin Young's 29-year-old 400m hurdles time by 0.08s in front of a home crowd in Oslo, Norway on Thursday, setting a new time of 46.70s.
American Young had previously earned the 46.78s world record when he beat Jamaican Winthrop Graham and Britain's Kriss Akabusi to gold in the Barcelona 400m hurdles final in 1992.
After becoming the Diamond League overall winner during an unbeaten 2019, Warholm went into this week's Diamond League meeting in Oslo looking to give his home fans something to cheer about. In his first race of the outdoor season, the 25-year-old kept a cool, steady rhythm and then powered down the home straight to claim the record-breaking time of 46.70s ahead of Brazil's Alison dos Santos and Turkey's Yasmani Copello.
Here's what Warholm had to say on Friday afternoon from his Oslo home after a magical night:
Karsten Warholm celebrates the new 400 m hurdles World Record (46.70s) at home in Oslo, Norway at the Bislett Games on July 1, 2021.

What better way to set a world record than in front of friends and family

© Daniel Tengs/Red Bull Content Pool

It was a great feeling and it couldn't have been better. To me, it was the biggest dream coming true
Karsten Warholm
What are you feeling like today after such an amazing night?
Today, I've just tried to cool down and do some golfing. It's hard to get some sleep as the adrenaline is pumping and my race yesterday was pretty late. I'm racing in Monaco next Friday, so I need to get ready.
How important was it to break the world record in front of a home crowd?
It was very special for me. I train in Bislett many times a week as I live in Oslo, so it's a home stadium. It was the biggest event in Norway since the start of the pandemic, so everybody was really eager to be there and cheer for a Norwegian athlete. It was like the perfect moment to be able to do that in those circumstances. It was a great feeling and it couldn't have been better, even if I'd tried to write a book about it. To me, it was the biggest dream coming true.
You need to go all the way back to the likes of (Sebastian) Coe, (Steve) Cram and (Steve) Ovett when Bislett was called the 'world record track'. These guys were pushing the world record all the time, but there haven't been a lot of world records broken at the Bislett Stadium in recent years, so it was a proud moment for me to be able to put some light on it again.
Karsten Warholm celebrates the new 400 m hurdles World Record (46.70s) and Diamond League win at home in Oslo, Norway at the Bislett Games on July 1, 2021

The moment the world record finally fell after 29 years

© Daniel Tengs/Red Bull Content Pool

Were you confident that you could break it based on your recent training?
We always try to focus on training with high quality, that's why I don't race that much, because I don't need races to get ready for championships. That's one of the special things we do, we make sure that we train on the same level that we need to be when we reach competition. You tend to improve, because competition always gives you that extra edge, but I know that I'm always able to perform if I go to the starting line. I've been cancelling some meets and just waiting for the right moment to start the season, and Bislett was perfect for me.
Have you been training with other hurdles athletes back home?
When I'm in training, I just compete against the timer. My coach (Leif Olav Alnes) has the timer and we have all these benchmarks for times that we want to match and we always push ourselves towards them. I think it's a good thing.
Have the fast performances of American rival Rai Benjamin helped push you even more?
Absolutely. Competitors are a beautiful thing, but also something that makes you more nervous. Everybody wants to win and, when someone is putting on great performances, you know that you need to raise the bar to be in that company going into a major championship. When they're posting great times, I feel the pressure on myself to do the same and I think those things push me towards being the best version of myself.
Did the crowd's loud home support help push you even more?
It was very special, because when I walked onto the track, everybody started really cheering for me and standing up from their chairs. I was like, 'Damn, these people actually think that I'm just going to walk out there and deliver a world record. They almost expect it.'
That big pressure is very hard to deal with but, at the same time, it's also a very nice thing because when people expect something like that from you, you know that you're in a good place. Somehow, I felt like it gave me a bit of confidence as well. I felt like everybody there believed in me and it was actually a very comforting feeling, because if all these people believe in me, I should be able to believe in myself.
Karsten Warholm celebrates the new 400m hurdles World Record (46.70s) at home in Oslo, Norway at the Bislett Games on July 1, 2021

All hail the new king of the 400m hurdles, Karsten Warholm

© Daniel Tengs/Red Bull Content Pool

You seem a very confident person on track, but do you have any doubts in private?
I think all athletes get nervous and start to overthink at some point. Those are the feelings that all people need to deal with in everyday life, but I think it's not pushing these thoughts away, but processing these thoughts. I have a coach who's really experienced and been through all these things. He knows all the thoughts that can plant in your head and it's important to talk about them and to be aware of them. Of course, when you deal with these thoughts I think it's much easier to be comfortable and confident, go out there, enjoy yourself and try to reach your potential.
What did you work on specifically with your coach in the off-season to improve your technique further?
I think the main thing is that I've become faster. I just have more pace and I'm stronger. I've been doing some weightlifting and getting some muscle. My engine is bigger and it can handle even more. I did made progress in the speed work and that's what we can see in a race like yesterday as well.
Can you go unbeaten this year like you did in 2019?
I spoke with coach about that. This unbeaten thing can become a big trap, because we always want to be in the position where we attack and I don't want to be in a position where I am afraid to lose. I want to always take chances and try to reach my full potential. I try not to think about it too much. Of course, I always want to win, but I don't count my winning streak. In championships, anything can happen, so it's about being ready and being prepared.
Have you managed to talk with the previous record holder, Kevin Young?
I actually FaceTimed him with the Norwegian national broadcaster, so I was able to have a quick talk with him last night. He wanted to keep his record as long as possible, but I think that in our sport 29 years is way, way overdue and he knew that as well. To me, it seemed like he was happy that the new generation now is moving the event forward. It's cool that he takes it that way and he wants us to succeed, even though the record was in his name for such a long time.

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Karsten Warholm

Hailing from the fjords of Norway, Karsten Warholm is his country's most successful track athlete and the fastest 400m hurdler in history.

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