Crowd-pleasing Warholm prepares for 'crazy times' ahead

Doha (AFP) –

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Karsten Warholm enjoyed the moment of defending his world 400 metres hurdles title but said "crazy times" lie ahead when he will be hunted down by "great opponents".

The charismatic 23-year-old Norwegian -- who in 2017 became his country's first world champion since Inge Kristiansen in 1987 -- won impressively.

He put clear space between himself and the other two athletes in the final -- Rai Benjamin of the United States and Qatar's Abderrahman Samba -- who had broken the magical 47 second mark.

Warholm, who had come out pumped for the race bellowing when his name was announced and pumping his fists, said the conmfortable nature of his win did not make him complacent about the future challenges he faced at the Olympics next year.

"With these great opponents, every one of them sub-47 I am going to have to work work very hard," he said.

"These guys are going to hunt me.

"Crazy times ahead and I am not going to sleep!"

Warholm, who smashed the European record when he went under 47sec in Zurich in August, said he was not fussed he had been well off the 27-year-old world record of Kevin Young.

"To be honest I do not care," he said.

"It was only about the gold medal today.

"If I won it in 1 minute I would not care.

"I go out to have fun and run the race, who knows others around me may take the record one day."

- 'Smile on my face' -

Warholm, who said he would not double up in the 400m flat as he had only entered in case he messed up in the hurdles, remarked although he is the hunted he does not let thoughts of his opponents get to him.

"I have very huge respect for my opponents like Samba," he said.

"I am very humble to be in his company.

"I always focus on my own journey and not get stressed very much.

"For me it it was just to realise my potential and it went well for me."

Warholm, whose lively wit and sparkle could make him the poster boy for the sport which it so badly needs, was phlegmatic about performing his victory lap, in a virtually empty stadium.

The arena had been uncommonly full for the evening's entertainment but as soon as the race was over the crowds trooped off.

"I am used to talking to myself," he joked.

"Actually there were some Norwegians still there and I decided to go and salute them as they had come from Norway to support me and the team.

"Obviously it was different in London (2017) with 60,000 in the stadium.

"At the same time it is a gold medal so I could not have cared less."

Warholm, who along with 19-year-old Jakob Ingebrigtsen promises a potentially golden era for Norwegian athletics, said celebrations would be muted and shared with his veteran coach Leif Olav Alnes, who the youngster persuaded to defer his retirement in 2016 and coach him.

"It is going to be the same way as in London," he said.

"I will go back to my room with my coach and he will drink a Coke and we will sit down and relax and talk all about the good things we have done.

"I will go to bed and have a smile on my face because the best feeling you get is crossing the line when you win."

Warholm also set the record straight on his citing 'greed is good' the motto of the Wall Street films anti-hero immoral financier Gordon Gekko.

"That has been a little misuderstood," he said. "In sports be greedy and in life generous."