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Warholm and Thompson-Herah light up Olympic track

By AFP - Aug 03,2021 - Last updated at Aug 03,2021

Norway’s Karsten Warholm reacts after winning and breaking the world record in the men’s 400m hurdles final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo on Tuesday (AFP photo by Matthias Schrader)

TOKYO — Karsten Warholm and Elaine Thompson-Herah made history on a memorable day in athletics at the Olympics, the Norwegian destroying his own world record in winning the 400 metres hurdles and the Jamaican completing a historic women’s sprint “double double”.

Warholm stormed home in one of the all-time great Olympic track races, setting a new mark of 45.94 seconds.

His great rival, Rai Benjamin, ran the second fastest time in history (46.17sec), and Brazil’s Alison dos Santos narrowly missed out ducking inside the old world record, clocking 46.72sec to take bronze.

The charismatic Warholm celebrated by ripping open his running vest in Superman style.

“I always say that the perfect race doesn’t exist, but this is the closest I’ve come to a perfect race,” Warholm said.

The two-time world champion said he decided to set a furious pace from the gun in order to “stress” his rivals.

“After that I just ran for my life,” he said. “I would have died for that gold medal today.”

There were no such theatrics from Thompson-Herah, even though she ran the second fastest time in history.

Her time of 21.53sec is only slower than Florence Griffith Joyner’s world record of 21.34sec set at the drug-tarnished 1988 Seoul Olympics.

“Oh my god, it’s amazing that I have ever seen this day,” said 29-year-old Thompson-Herah.

“That I could complete another double. I can’t believe it. I have had a rough week. I haven’t slept after the 100m final.

“I really had to pull it out to win the 200m. It’s a new PB (personal best) and a national record.

“I am so, so happy.”

The USA may have struggled to translate finalists into gold over the opening five days of track and field, but two of their next generation showed there is plenty of talent on the way up.

Athing Mu, 19, was an impressive winner of the women’s 800 metres — the first American to do so since Madeline Manning in 1968.

“I wasn’t really putting gold on that, but as it got closer to the final today, I was like, ‘Yeah, we want gold’,” she said.

“It’s an accomplishment that I wanted off my list.”

Her fellow teenager Erriyon Knighton qualified for Wednesday’s men’s 200m final — the youngest finalist since fellow 17-year-old Ade Mafe of Britain in 1984.

 

‘Queen of the hammer’

 

The field event finals also had their fair share of drama.

German long jumper Malaika Mihambo prevailed in a classic duel with 2012 gold medallist and four-time world champion Brittney Reese of the United States.

Mihambo was lying in the bronze medal position ahead of her final jump, but hammered down the runway to register a season-best of 7.00 metres and emerge victorious.

“I knew this was my last chance and that I had to do it, and I knew I had more in me than 6.95,” Mihambo told AFP.

“So I believed in myself.”

Armand Duplantis won the men’s pole vault with a best mark of 6.02m.

However, there was more drama than during the actual competition after he had secured the gold.

The Swedish star went devilishly close in two of his three attempts at beating his own world record of 6.18m.

The field event fraternity would not permit the track glamour brigade to have all the headlines.

Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk became the first female athlete to win the same track and field event three times with victory in the hammer.

The 35-year-old Pole, who won golds in the 2012 and 2016 Games in London and Rio, succeeded where Valerie Adams (shot put), Sandra Perkovic (discus) and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (100m) had fallen short at these Games.

“I feel good,” she said. “I was dreaming of becoming the queen of the hammer throw.”

 

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