'Nervous' Warholm and 'chilled' Benjamin set up hurdles final duel
Doha (AFP) –
Norway's defending champion Karsten Warholm and American pretender Rai Benjamin will go toe-to-toe in Monday's 400 metres hurdles final at the World Athletics Championships after both eased through their semi-finals on Saturday.
Warholm and Benjamin -- whose other main rival Qatar's Abderrahman Samba also progressed -- are seen as dangers to breaking Kevin Young's 27-year-old world record of 46.78sec.
They both went under the 47-second barrier in the race of the season so far in Zurich last month.
However, 23-year-old Warholm professed to nerves.
"I am very nervous to be honest and I think it is pretty obvious why," said the charismatic Norwegian.
"It has been a final everyone has been talking about.
"The level is very, very high and I am going to have dig very deep to have a chance of winning.
"I am not looking forward to that tough and painful experience on Monday but I am ready."
Benjamin, son of former West Indies pace bowler Winston Benjamin, beat Samba in his semi-final and struck a much more relaxed tone in Doha than his rival.
"I am feeling pretty chilled and relaxed," he sad.
"It is just another day, we do this all the time. It's not as if we don't race against each other the whole season.
"I am excited for Monday and very relaxed, like I have been since we got here."
Benjamin, who said his father had rung him from the United States to offer advice but sadly he had been asleep due to the time difference, said he knew what he had to do if he was to get the better of Warholm.
"The hurdles is not a race you can make ground up in if you slouch," he said.
"I did in Zurich and paid the price so I cannot lose focus for two seconds."
Benjamin admitted to feeling the effects of a long season, and an unusually late world championships, and said he could not predict what would happen in the final.
"I don't even know if the sun is going to come up on Monday," he said with a smile.
"We will see what happens but I have not come here to be second or third, I have come here to win."
Benjamin said a world record could result from his rivalry with Warholm
"I think so, that it is possible," he said. "Everyone is running well.
"I am not worried too much about the record, the gold will do."
He stressed he would not forsake Antigua -- the birthplace of his parents which he represented at a world youth championships -- entirely when he springs from the blocks on Monday.
"It is where my parents are form and I still have family there," he said.
"So part of me will of course be Antiguan."
© 2019 AFP