The Glasgow 2019 European Athletics Indoor Championships didn’t originally feature in Karsten Warholm’s plans but the Norwegian was fully justified in his decision to contest the 400m at the Emirates Arena.
There were no doubts about Warholm’s shape as he led the 2019 European list by a significant margin but his coach Leif-Olav Alnes was initially reluctant to send his charge to compete at a championships in an event which carries a high risk of injury.
But Warholm made the surprise announcement he would compete in a way that only Warholm and his equally ebullient and charismatic coach could. He posted a photo on Instagram which appeared to show Warholm holding his coach hostage with the caption: “Me and Leif sat down yesterday and had a nice, calm chat. Turns out he’s sending me to the European Indoor Champs after all.”
And Warholm navigated his way to the title, avoiding any of the physicality which can be associated with indoor 400m running. In each of his three rounds, Warholm powered into an early lead and broke from lanes with a clear margin and his rivals jockeying for position in the Norwegian’s masterful slipstream.
After easing through his heat in 47.05 with the minimum of energy expended, Warholm sped up in the semifinals with a 45.95 clocking to qualify fastest for the final where he would deliver a one-man demonstration of speed and strength.
Warholm had to blast through the 200m mark in a faster 21.38 to fend off the challenge of Spain’s Oscar Husillos - the man who crossed the line first at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham one year prior before he was disqualified for a lane violation - to break from lanes in the lead.
With the Norwegian coming from an early combined events background before switching to the 400m hurdles on a full-time basis in 2016, there was no danger of Warholm faltering or tying up. The only question was how fast he could cover the second lap of the Emirates Arena.
Warholm tore his national indoor record of 45.56 asunder, stopping the clock at 45.05 to surpass Czech Pavel Maslak’s championship record of 45.33 and equal the European record which has stood to East Germany’s Thomas Schonlebe since 1988. With his time confirmed, Warholm punched the air with his fist and hit the track with the palm of his hand in jubilation.
“I felt really confident, I felt easy running 45.95 in the semifinal,” commented Warholm. “I knew I could be running fast but at the same time it’s one thing to think it and it’s another thing to do it. I like for my legs to speak for me. I have to give huge thanks to my coach. This is a team effort.”
The second day of Glasgow 2019 was a truly notable one in the history of Norwegian athletics. Having gone without a single gold medal at the European Athletics Indoor Championships between 1970 and 2019, Warholm won Norway’s second title of the session less than an hour after Jakob Ingebrigtsen prevailed in the 1500m.
Warholm was to forge even more history during the outdoor campaign in which he put together one of the finest ever seasons in the history of the 400m hurdles. On the way to winning back-to-back world titles in Doha, Warholm broke the European record on three occasions - 47.33 in Oslo and 47.12 in London - and moved to second on the world all-time list with an incredible 46.92 in the Zurich Diamond League.
For his exploits both indoors and outdoors, Warholm was crowned men’s European Athlete of the Year at the Golden Tracks award ceremony in Tallinn just two years after winning the Rising Star equivalent.