Warholm does his best at second best

The fastest man in Norway isn’t giving up

Karsten Warholm

Photo: Chel Hill / Wikimedia Commons
Karsten Warholm racing in the 2017 Bislett Games.

Jo Christian Weldingh

Only 10 months into his reign as world champion, Karsten Warholm has already been surpassed by Abderrahman Samba from Qatar. “We will never give up. This is why we do this,” is the message from Warholm and his team.

Warholm set a Norwegian and Nordic record in the 400-meter hurdles, when he ran 47.81 in the Golden League race in Stockholm, June 10. This broke the record of 47.82 he set in the Diamond League season opener in Rome on May 31, which eclipsed the 47.96 Sven Nylander ran in 1996. Warholm is the favorite to win the European Championship in August. He has never been better, but he is still only second best.

Samba beat him by 40 hundredths of a second. This was the third time in a row, in one and a half weeks, that Warholm has been beaten by Samba.

Warholm’s coach, Leif Olav Alnes, who was given the “Norwegian Coach of the Year” award last season, is still satisfied. “Last season we would have done backflips from pure joy if he ran 47.81,” he says.

Warholm’s best time last season was 48.22, at the Golden League event in Zürich.

“Karsten runs like he did last year, he starts out fast, and his speed in the last 100 has been improving every week,” said Alnes. “He has been doing really well over the first eight hurdles, then he has done some mistakes over the last two.”

Samba, however, is the other way around. Warholm has been leading in all three races, but Samba has been superb in the last 100 meters, totally crushing all opposition. He has seemed to have an extra gear or two toward the end. “He has been in a league of his own,” Alnes admits.

Samba grew up in Saudi Arabia and played both soccer and basketball before moving to Qatar four years ago to pursue track. He represented his new home country in Barcelona in 2016 in the 200 meters. Samba’s agent, Swede Daniel Wessfeldt, who also represents the Norwegian Ingebrigtsen brothers (Filip, Henrik, and Jakob), says that Samba has unlimited resources available to him in Qatar.

Warholm has been quoted as saying that his goal for the season is to become so good that no one can beat him, even when they try their hardest, but after losing three races in a row, he has been forced to reevaluate his goals. “People are running so fast now, that it’s going to be difficult,” he said. “If you’re having an off day, you have no chance. You have to be good enough to beat the world record, and I’m not quite there yet. But I’m dreaming about it.”

Another runner who has been doing extraordinarily well on the 400-meter hurdles this season is 20-year-old Rai Benjamin from Antigua and Barbuda, who set a personal best of 47.02 on June 9. He competes for the University of Southern California.

“We said last season that we would get new competition this year. No surprise there,” Alnes says. “We cannot let that control what we’re doing in our training. If Karsten improves his last 100 meters, he has the potential to beat anyone.”

This article originally appeared in the July 13, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.