Warholm wins World Championship

Winning the 400-meter hurdles, Karsten Warholm makes Norwegian running history

Karsten Warholm sits on the first place podium and shows off his gold medal.

Photo: Svein Olav Humberset / Aftenposten
Karsten Warholm shows off his gold medal. He’s the first Norwegian man ever to take home a World Championship gold in a track event.

Jo Christian Weldingh
Oslo, Norway

In a rainy London on August 9, Karsten Warholm was the first to cross the finish line in the 400-meter hurdles race and became the first Norwegian man to ever win a World Championship in a running event. “I truly don’t believe it. I’ve worked so hard for this, but I don’t know what I’ve done. This is an amazing feeling,” he told the 55,000-strong crowd after somebody gave him a Viking helmet to wear during his lap of honor.

Warholm’s win was the first track victory by a Norwegian at any World Championship since Ingrid Kristiansen’s 10,000 meters triumph in Rome in 1987. Norway’s last medal in a World Championship in athletics occurred in 2011 when Andreas Thorkildsen won the silver in the javelin throw.

Warholm got off to a great start and lead the race from start to finish. He entered the final stretch first and was able to keep all his competitors behind him. The 21-year-old won the race with the time of 48.35, which was 15 hundredths of a second faster than the silver medalist, Yasmani Copello of Cuba. Warholm also spoiled Olympic champion and favorite Kerron Clement’s dream of becoming the first man to win three world titles at the discipline, and the 31-year-old American had to settle for bronze. Clement won world titles in the event in both 2007 and 2009.

Warholm seemed to be in shock when he crossed the finish line and realized that he had become Norway’s seventh World Champion in athletics, grasping his face in-between his hands, looking more or less terrified. Warholm’s smile of disbelief said it all—a smile that the media compared to Edvard Munch’s masterpiece Scream.

“It’s insane. He’s a robot. Imagine being 21 and running like that; it’s unbelievable,” silver medalist Copello said in the press zone.

Warholm must have felt the weight of the enormous expectations resting on his shoulders after an amazing season. Very few Norwegians knew who he was before he beat Olympic Champion Kerron Clement and the rest of the world elite in the Golden League event in Oslo in June, where he also lowered his personal record to 48.25. When he followed up with another just as impressive victory in Stockholm a few days later, the Norwegian audiences started believing that he might have a chance in the World Championship.

Warholm’s win is even more impressive considering that he is a former decathlete, having won silver in the event at the 2015 European Junior Championships as well as gold in the octathlon at the 2013 World Youth Championships. He has focused only on the 400-meter hurdles for the past two years.

Jo Christian Weldingh grew up in Lillehammer, Norway, but is currently living in Oslo. He has a BA in Archaeology from The University of Oslo and a BA in Business Administration from BI Norwegian Business School.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 8, 2017, 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.