TOKYO: Norway’s Karsten Warholm shattered the world record to claim gold in an epic 400m hurdles at the Olympics yesterday as Germany’s Malaika Mihambo soared to victory in the long jump. One of the most eagerly anticipated events of the Olympic track and field program, the 400m hurdles lived up to its billing as world champion Warholm produced a jaw-dropping performance in fierce midday sun at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium.
The 25-year-old stormed over the line in an incredible 45.94 seconds, slicing a massive 0.8sec off his own world mark of 46.70 set in Oslo last month. Long-time USA rival Rai Benjamin pushed Warholm hard in the home straight and took silver in another blistering time of 46.17sec, the second fastest in history. Brazil’s Alison dos Santos narrowly missed ducking inside the old world record, clocking 46.72sec to take bronze. Warholm roared in apparent disbelief as he spotted his winning time, dropping to his knees and ripping open his running vest.
“I always say that the perfect race doesn’t exist, but this is the closest I’ve come to a perfect race,” Warholm said. The two-time world champion said he decided to set a furious pace from the gun in order to “stress” his rivals. “After that I just ran for my life,” he said. “I would have died for that gold medal today.” It was the dramatic final act of an entertaining morning session on day five of the athletics competition that produced a gold for German long-jumper Mihambo in a classic duel with 2012 gold medalist and four-time world champion Brittney Reese of the United States.
Mihambo was lying in the bronze medal position ahead of her final jump, but hammered down the runway to register a season-best jump of 7.00 meters to take the lead. “I knew this was my last chance and that I had to do it, and I knew I had more in me than 6.95,” Mihambo told AFP. “So I believed in myself.” Mihambo’s leap left Reese — who had led the competition with a best jump of 6.97m — with one final attempt to win gold. But the American could only manage 6.84 with her last effort, taking silver ahead of Nigeria’s Ese Brume, who won bronze with a jump of 6.97m.
Mihambo admitted she had found it hard to watch as she waited nervously to see if Reese would snatch gold with the final jump of the competition. “I tried to have a sneak peek on the display,” she said. “I really don’t like this position where you cannot do anything about it and you have to watch the girls do what they have to do. It was a horrible moment, but at least it was short.”
Felix off the mark
Elsewhere yesterday, US track and field’s golden girl Allyson Felix got her fifth Olympic Games off to a smooth start, cruising to victory in her opening 400m heat. The 35-year-old needs one more medal in Tokyo to become the most decorated female track and field athlete in Olympic history, a title she shares with Jamaica’s Merlene Ottey with nine medals.
Felix, the only woman in Olympic history with six athletics gold medals, romped home in 50.84sec. “It’s nice to get going,” Felix said. “It feels like I’ve been waiting forever. It felt good to get out there and bump it up for the semi.” In the opening round of the men’s 200m world champion Noah Lyles eased into the semi-finals, winning in 20.18sec. Fellow qualifiers included his compatriot Kenny Bednarek in 20.01sec and 17-year-old US sensation Erriyon Knighton in 20.55sec.
The qualifying rounds of the women’s javelin competition featured upsets with Croatia’s 2016 gold medalist Sara Kolak crashing out after failing to register a mark from three attempts. The Czech Republic’s Barbora Spotakova was also a surprise early casualty, the 2008 and 2012 gold medalist finishing just outside the qualifying places to miss out on the final. – AFP