Karsten Warholm (Ulsteinsvik, Norway; 25 years old) is the great athletics sensation after breaking the world record for 400m hurdles (45.94s, first person down from 46s) at the Tokyo Games. Now he has just closed a year in which he has exceeded all expectations, his own and those of a hobby in which he arouses an almost animal passion when he runs the 400m hurdles. In August in Tokyo he flew in the toughest, most lactic, cruel, brutal and technical speed test that exists, pulverizing his own record of 46.70s that he had achieved this same 2021 in Oslo. Not only did he end a decades-long record, that of Kevin Young (46.78s) at Barcelona 92, but in Japan, Warholm took the test to an unknown level alongside the American Rai Benjamin (silver with 46.17s) and the Brazilian Alison dos Santos (bronze, 46.72s), the fastest on the planet.
Last Sunday, September 12, EL PAÍS interviewed Karsten Warholm at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, after winning his last competition of the season with a mark of 48.08s before an euphoric German public who celebrated him as a great star in the centenary of ISTAF, the oldest athletic meeting in the world.
Question. In Tokyo he broke his own world record with 45.94s. Did you expect to make such a spectacular mark?
Answer. The record was something very special and, above all, to do it at the Olympics, it is an incredible feeling because it is everything you have been working for. But I really wanted to end here in Berlin because it is a very special and historical place for me. [en la capital alemana fue campeón de Europa en 2018].
P. You’ve been pretty close to achieving your goal of running 13 steps between each hurdle to the finish… How do you prepare to achieve something so difficult?
R. At the Olympics I didn’t make it, but I managed to finish very quickly. I reached the last hurdle in 15 steps, Rai Benjamin in 13. We both ran with different tactics. Before I was very focused on doing all the steps, but now I focus more on the race because I do not think that the number of steps will necessarily improve the final time, rather it is about finding a natural way to run and that I have known how to do. very good this year: running naturally, keeping up the pace and speed. It is important not to lose speed because, in the end, you arrive with very tired legs and you have no gas left, so you have to keep up. flow.
P. Is it about dying slowly?
R. [Ríe] Yes, exactly. We have some energy systems in our body and it is all about using them correctly. That is the most delicate balance, so, yes, it is exactly about dying little by little …
P. Double world record and Olympic champion, was this the perfect season?
R. Yes, this year I don’t think I can ask for more. But even so, it was very important for me to win today [domingo 12 de septiembre] in Berlin because I haven’t lost a single competition since 2018 and this year nobody has beaten me either in the 400-meter hurdles, so it was very important to win here too.
P. His 45.94s in the 400-meter hurdles in Tokyo have generated many expectations about what he can do in the 400-meter hurdles, but such a mark cannot be transferred so automatically to the smooth ones, right?
R. Yes … I have very good potential in 400 meters but that will be something for later because my body does not give me more … I think that, looking ahead, the race I did in Tokyo could easily translate into 43 seconds [el récord mundial es del sudafricano Van Niekerk, con 43,03s] but in practice it is not known. Running at that level requires a lot of dedication because it is a very different test, for this I will have to train a little more to run the 400 slips outdoors because the pace is different. The 400 meter hurdles will always be my main test but I think that in the future I will alternate both tests much more.
P. In winter, on an indoor track, he actually runs the 400-meter sprint. How do you combine training? How much time do you spend on the fences in winter preparation?
R. I train a lot with hurdles and that’s probably why I hardly waste time spending them in competition. That is the key to this test, you have to be fast on the 400 and not waste a lot of time passing over the obstacle so as not to lose speed. And that’s what I think I’m better at, not losing speed when going over the hurdles. Throughout the year I probably do thousands of repetitions on the fences.
P. After Tokyo it can be said that you, Rai Benjamin and Dos Santos have taken the test to another level. What are your expectations now?
R. There is only one thing better than a gold medal and that is two gold medals. With repeating it I am satisfied … Last Thursday [9 de septiembre] In Zurich, achieving my second Diamond League title was just as satisfying for me as when I broke the first record. The fight for the medals is motivation enough for me.
P. Has a good relationship with his coach [Leif Olav Alnes]They both have a sense of humor and he says that helps him not to get overwhelmed by pressure …
R. It is important to have nerves just before the competition but those nerves can ruin you or they can give you great energy. When you know what to do, you can use those nerves to your advantage. But it is just as important to have an experienced coach with whom you have a good time, you have to be professional but there is no need to be so serious all the time, it is important to have an environment in which you feel safe and can develop; in fact, it is something important in all aspects of life because it helps you to be better. I read a study that said that we do 80% of the work in a minimal percentage of the time because we are more creative when we have a lot of energy. And that is what my coach and I try to do, to work in such a way that we always feel happy and motivated.
P. You said that you feel tired in your legs after such a long season, but mentally, how do you manage to maintain that level of demand and concentration for so long?
R. I think the mental aspect is the most difficult because the legs recover but when you are so highly focused for the Olympic Games, once your arms go down and you relax and it is very difficult to return to that level of demand. It was a challenge for me to keep it until the final of the Diamond League but I managed to do it and I love a challenge.
P. They call 400 fences the “killer test.” Rai Benjamin says that you learn to love her, how do you learn to love something so painful?
R. It is the feeling you have when you finish. When you are afraid of something and get over it, it feels good. That’s running the 400 meter hurdles.
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