Karstn Warholm has often said the perfect race does not exist but he came as close to perfection as possible with an annihilation of the 400metre hurdles world record.
For 29 years, Kevin Young had held that world best until the Norwegian took 0.08sec off the American’s mark running 46.70sec in Oslo last month. But in Tokyo today, Warholm simply ripped up the record books, winning in 45.94sec, his open-mouthed reaction in unison with the reaction of those in the stands at the Olympic Stadium.
But this was not simply a race against the clock as Rai Benjamin pushed him down the home straight. The American’s time would have been good enough to go well under the world record too, coming home in 46.17sec, but had to settle for silver ahead of Brazil’s Alison dos Santos, who took bronze.
“You know that cliche everybody is talking about where it hasn’t sunk in? I don’t think it has, but at the same time I feel ecstatic,” Warholm told the BBC afterwards.
“It’s just a great moment. I can’t believe the time, it’s so fast!
“The craziest thing is life told me that 45 can be possible, if you just hit the sweet spot and do everything perfect.
“A lot of times I’ve been asked about the perfect race, I said it didn’t exist. This is the closest thing I’ve ever gotten. It’s crazy.
“I told myself going into the race, just remember all the hard hours, all the work you’ve been putting in.
“It was the only thing I’ve been missing from my collection. Now I have a full collection and I can’t describe how important it is to me.
“This is my life, this is everything I do. People talk about don’t let sport define you and everything but, I don’t have anything else.
“This is what I do, morning until night. It’s big for me, it’s very huge.”
Shortly before that men’s 400m hurdles final, Germany’s Malaika Mihambo added Olympic gold to her world and European long jump titles.
The 27-year-old’s dramatic final-round jump of seven metres took her from third to first, with neither London 2012 and seven-time world gold medallist Brittney Reese or Ese Brume able to match or exceed that mark in their final leaps.
Reese took silver for the USA for the second successive Games, with Brume claiming bronze for Nigeria, having also done so at the 2019 World Championships in Doha.
“I feel overwhelmed. It was, I think, the most exciting women’s long jump competition in history,” Mihambo said. “It was so exciting to be part of it and I am happy I made it at the end.
“I knew that I could jump farther than 6.95m. I just needed to hit the board. I knew all the time that I could do it. I just knew that I had one last attempt to do it and I am so happy to grab the gold.”