Warholm says fast times due to 'gift' virus year


Ostrava (Czech Republic) (AFP)

Karsten Warholm said Monday that 2020 could be "a gift" as it has allowed athletes to focus on improving their times instead of worrying about medals from cancelled competitions.

In Stockholm two weeks ago, the 24-year-old Norwegian came within 0.09 seconds of Kevin Young's world 400m hurdles record of 46.78sec from the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

Warholm's next chance to attack the record will come on Tuesday, at the Golden Spike meet in the eastern Czech steel hub of Ostrava.

"I think a season like this gives people a chance to perform," Warholm said in Ostrava, pointing out the cancelled European championships and the postponed Tokyo Olympics.

"You can train longer and you can train more. I think this year actually can be a gift. You don't worry about medals, you can concentrate on times.

"I would like to have the Olympics and the European championships, but when this situation is happening I think it's important to find a better way of looking at it," said Warholm.

Expecting him to attack the world record again, the organisers have brought his race forward to ensure the ideal conditions on the presumably sunny day.

"Everybody is talking and thinking about the record and for me it's more about doing what I can do," said Warholm, the world champion from 2017 and 2019.

- 'No pressure' -

"The best thing that I can do is to try to get a normal race. If the level is there it's there and then it's all about doing a race that is fast enough," he said into a carefully disinfected microphone, his black face mask on.

"I feel good, my body's good, the shape is good and I'm going to go out there and do my thing," said Warholm.

In Stockholm, he ran the second fastest 400m hurdles in history and set a new European record despite clipping the last hurdle.

"I just saw that Kevin Young hit the last hurdle in his record race so I thought I would try the same but it didn't work out that well," he chuckled.

The Ostrava organisers have put him in lane 8 -- just like in Stockholm -- to help him focus on the run, not his rivals.

"I actually like that way of running. I don't know if it's my new favourite lane but right now I feel it works very good," Warholm said.

After driving to Stockholm in a camper van with his coach and sleeping in the vehicle to minimise the risk of catching Covid-19, Warholm flew to Ostrava on a private plane.

"It's a very nice way of travelling but now I have to deliver, the pressure is on me now," Warholm said.

And, reminded that the Golden Spike organisers used to fly in Usain Bolt this way, he quipped: "Oh, big shoes to fill... No pressure, no, no, no."