Norwegian makes history in greatest race of all-time at the Olympic Games in Tokyo on Tuesday
Surely this was the most amazing race in the history of athletics.
This event had long been shaping up to be the race of the Tokyo Games and there were even some people who were slightly disappointed when Karsten Warholm smashed Kevin Young’s long-standing world record with his run of 46.70 in Oslo last month, given that it was potentially going to take something away from the Olympic final.
Yet they need not have worried.
The hugely talented Rai Benjamin produced one of the greatest performances ever seen as he obliterated the Norwegian’s record with 46.17 but the America was still two metres adrift of Warholm’s space-age 45.94 and his run was only good enough for silver.
The world record had fallen by 0.45 of a second in 41 years and it had dropped 0.76 in a single race.
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Warholm started fast and clearly had an advantage down the back straight, reaching the fifth hurdle in 20 seconds.
Gradually Benjamin closed the gap and, as Warholm hit the 300m mark in around 33 seconds, the American was easing on to his shoulder.
The race still looked on as they approached the last hurdle but Warholm took it perfectly in his stride and finished full of running, while his rival was unable to get on terms despite his stunning US record.
Warholm celebrated wildly and, even half an hour later, admitted: “It hasn’t sunk in. It’s a great moment. I can’t believe the time. I had been thinking about the perfect race and this was close.”
The double world champion added: “It’s very special to me. It’s just crazy. My coach said a 45-something is possible. To do it is something else. My respect to competitors. To run 46.17 and only get silver.
“I put my whole soul into it. It was the only thing missing from my collection. I think of my coach. He is my best friend and always there every day when he should be having a good life retired.”
A stunned Benjamin said: “It’s hard. I trained my butt off all this year and I made a mistake. I’m proud and there was a lot of pressure. I’m now going to focus on the 4x400m.”
Alison dos Santos of Brazil was a distant third but only just missed Warholm’s previous record with 46.72 to go third all-time with his South American record.
Kyron McMaster improved his British Virgin Islands record with a Commonwealth record 47.08 to go seventh all-time just ahead of Abderrahman Samba’s 47.12, which netted him a mere fifth.
Yasmani Copello equalled his Turkish record with 47.81 in sixth while Rasmus Magi set an Estonian record of 48.11 in seventh to make it six records in the same race.
This was the fifth world record to be set in Olympic 400m hurdles races in the last 50 years, following David Hemery (48.12 in 1968), John Akii-Bua (47.82 in 1972), Edwin Moses (47.64 in 1976) and Kevin Young (46.78 in 1992).