He had broken Kevin Young’s 29-year-old world record last month and everybody expected Karsten Warholm to repeat it at the Tokyo Olympics.
But none was ready for such an awesome performance. The Norwegian 400m hurdler, who had clocked 46.70s last month, became the first man to go under 46s for a sparkling gold which came in 45.96s. That was 0.76s better than his old record!
Incidentally, a third of the field in the 400m flat heats clocked 46s or more in Tokyo.
Apart from a brief phase early on the home straight where he came under a bit of pressure from American Rai Benjamin, son of former West Indian fast bowler Winston Benjamin, it was all Warholm and he produced a near-perfect show. Incidentally, Warholm, the 2013 octathlon champion at the under-18 Worlds, was a multi-eventer and was doing the decathlon till 2015 before moving to the hurdles seriously.
The final was such a breathtaking affair and while Benjamin also went below the previous WR with his 46.17s for silver, four others bettered national records.
Meanwhile Sweden’s Armand Duplantis attempted to raise his World record by a centimetre to 6.19m, after taking gold with 6.02m, but narrowly missed it. American Chris Nilsen (5.97m) and Rio Olympic champion Thiago Braz (5.87m) took silver and bronze.
And then, Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk made history while winning the hammer throw (78.48m), becoming the first woman to win three Olympic golds in the same discipline, a feat that eluded Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Croatian discus thrower Sandra Perkovic earlier.
Jamaican Elaine Thompson-Herah, the fastest woman in Tokyo, completed the double-double by taking the 200m gold in 21.53s to repeat her 100-200 gold show in Rio. And American Athing Mu and Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson, both juniors, made it an impressive 1-2 in the women’s 800m while German Malaika Mihambo pipped American Brittney Reese with a last-round 7m for the women’s long jump title.
But there was nothing to celebrate for India. A day after discus thrower Kamalpreet sent the country on a bit of a high, Indians were back on familiar territory at the Olympics with discus thrower Annu Rani and shot putter Tajinderpal Singh Toor posting poor marks in the qualification round and crashing out.
Annu, the 2019 Worlds finalist and a consistent 60m-plus thrower, was last overall with just 54.04m while Toor, who produced a national record (21.49m) recently, disappointed with 19.99m, his lone legal effort and finished 13th in his group and 24th overall. Only 12 make the final in throws.
The focus now shifts to Neeraj Chopra, the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games champion, who will be in action in the qualification round on Wednesday morning.