No magic wand as Warholm targets hurdling consistency in Olympic defence

Karsten Warholm celebrates winning gold at the European Athletics Championships in June (Anne-Christine POUJOULAT)
Karsten Warholm celebrates winning gold at the European Athletics Championships in June (Anne-Christine POUJOULAT)

Karsten Warholm insisted on Thursday he would not be using a magic wand in his bid to defend his Olympic 400m hurdles title at the Paris Games that get under way in three weeks.

Warholm, 28, smashed the world record to win gold in the Covid-delayed Tokyo Olympics, clocking a stunning 45.94 seconds to win ahead of American Rai Benjamin (46.17) and Brazil's Alison Dos Santos (46.72).

Their performances in 2021 were a true stand-out of the Tokyo Games and the trio will come head-to-head at Friday's Diamond League in Monaco as they fine-tune preparations for Paris.

Warholm brazenly claimed the men's hurdles are at the "highest level of any event in track and field".

But he warned consistency was his goal in the run-in to Paris.

"It's a bad idea trying to do magic stuff in a big year because you know that can also create some difficulties," the Norwegian said.

"For me it's been about building on the foundation that I feel like we that we have done for many years," he added.

"I think also I found a coldness in what I'm doing. I've ticked up a lot of the boxes. It feels very good. I'm very confident about it.

"Every time I go into a championship, I know that we've done everything that we could.

"You want to feel like you deserve this the most. If you do that you have very good starting points. And of course there were probably eight other guys that feel the same way. But you've got to believe in the work you've done and that's what I always do."

Warholm said he and both Benjamin and Dos Santos "feel competent otherwise we wouldn't be here", but refused to be drawn on a potential winning time in Monaco.

"The thrill of the race is going to be good no matter what the time is," he said.

"It's going to be a race, I can guarantee that!"

- 'Cranking out' -

Benjamin said he felt fans and the media under-appreciated the trio.

"We've gotten so used to seeing 46 seconds," the American said.

"We've opened up our seasons under the previous world record, which is just insane and hadn't been done for years and now we were just cranking out 46sec like it's just a normal day."

Los Angeles-based Benjamin does not often travel to Diamond League events in Europe, citing problems with jetlag, but he dubbed Friday's race as the "dress rehearsal before the big dance".

"I mean, whatever happens here, it doesn't really matter!" the 26-year-old said.

"It does matter in some sense, I guess. But the main goal is the Olympics."

Warholm, a three-time world champion who last month won his second European title, recalled the final in Tokyo as a "special moment".

"When it comes to how I prepared for that race, what I'm doing this year it's so quite similar. I think all of us are having thoughts set on going to the Paris Olympics. That is where the focus is.

"So I'm looking to have a good training period coming into this race and, of course, I'm looking forward to be even better when it comes to Paris. Of course trying to save some for the big show!"