Athletics

Karsten Warholm: Why nobody is going to be the next Usain Bolt

Norwegian hurdles ace talks Bolt's big shoes, his pre-race 'Viking Roar', and why 2020 was so amazing for him in a sporting sense.

By Ken Browne ·

"Nobody is going to be the next Usain Bolt," says Karsten Warholm.

The reigning two-time world champion over 400m hurdles was speaking to Ato Boldon on the four-time Olympic medal winner's personal Instagram account.

Boldon interviewed Warholm and they talked about... well, about everything really, including cars, the injury to his main rival Abderrahman Samba, his pre-race 'Viking Thunderclap Warcry', and his love of Lego.

Warholm has had an incredible 2020 and came desperately close to Kevin Young's world record at August's Stockholm Diamond League meeting.

Norway's hero clocked a new European record of 46.87s, just nine-hundredths of a second outside Young's mark set in the Barcelona 1992 final,

Now every time he steps on the blocks, people are waiting for that world record to fall. As Boldon, the former world champion from Trinidad and Tobago, wrote in his intro:

"Prior to 2020, no athlete had ever run 47.10 or better TWICE in a season in the 400 meter hurdles. He did it on 4 occasions.

"He's been the biggest star on the track this year."

No replacing Usain Bolt

When asked if he was ready to replace Usain Bolt as "the face of the sport" of athletics. Warholm said, "When Usain Bolt came into the sport, he didn't have anyone right before him that... He didn't have any shoes to fill at that point.

"Now everybody talks about who's going to be the next Usain Bolt. Nobody is going to be the next Usain Bolt! Nobody is going to be the next Ato Boldon either.

"I think everybody's got to find their own way, Usain Bolt was huge so it's an honour just being compared to him but for me it's always been about developing.

"I don't want to build myself up as the face of the sport or the next Usain because for me it's about the running. If what comes with it is that people get inspired by what I'm doing then I think that's great."

Warholm was born in the year Boldon won his first two Olympic medals at Atlanta 1996, and there's strong great respect between the pair.

"I've watched a lot of people's races because I love track and field. I want to inspire people like you guys have inspired me. That is what I live for and I don't think too much about it. I try not to think too much about it." - Karsten Warholm speaking to Ato Boldon

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"I'm quite happy the Olympics were postponed"

When Boldon asks how Warholm has managed to make such a success of the year when it's been a write-off for so many people, the Norwegian tells a truth we all know: Covid-19 has affected everyone differently and exposed inequalities.

Between societies, between countries, and even in sport.

Boldon: So the Olympics get [postponed] and people think, well, it's going to be a down year, but it's not a down year for you, four times at 47.10 or better, arguably the best season in your event, what is it that everybody sort of gave up on in 2020 and you didn't, what made you have the kind of season you did this year?

Warholm: To be honest, to be fair to all my competitors, in Norway we were quite lucky given the situation compared to all the other countries. So I had a good start because we were in lockdown for... two weeks maybe? I had to be creative for two weeks and then I was back training at my regular spot so for me I got a lot of training in. I got to train longer, I got to train more during the summer.

"At the same time I think it's sad because sports is supposed to be equal. But that wasn't the fact this time so I'm actually quite happy competition-wise that the Olympics were cancelled... Postponed!" - Karsten Warholm

Warholm's pre-race warcry

Boldon also talked about Warholm's pre-race 'Viking Thunderclap Warcry', the way he gets in the zone before a race slapping his face, pounding his chest and letting out that Viking roar.

Boldon: I was having a conversation with somebody who knows very little about track and field but a bit about sports and they were watching a clip that I showed them of you.

And the person said, 'Oh, that's the problem right there. That extra tenth of a second or two-tenths of a second that he needs to break the world record, he's letting it out before the race with all the screaming and carrying on!'

He says if you look at great performances in track and field, most of them the person is very calm before. So talk to me a little about that. You're as expressive as they come before the race. Is that something you've always done?

Warholm: I understand that people find it weird that I do this stuff and for me I actually get embarrassed looking back at it... But there are not many runners at my level in Norway so when I have a practice I want to get pumped up and that's what I do at practice to get pumped up.

And that's how it started and I just adapted it onto the track and for me and I feel like it's working. But as you say, I've never tried not doing it so who knows, maybe that's the thing!

Warholm is 24 and will be 25 when Tokyo 2020 comes around.

If he can maintain this level of improvement, the Olympic title and the world record are both his for the taking.