Karsten Warholm: Norway’s world-beating “Golden Boy”

Karsten Warholm - goldPhoto: Heiko Junge / NTB

It was during the recent Tokyo Olympics that the world found out what Norway has known for a while: Karsten Warholm is a true champion. Norway’s “Golden Boy” burst onto the world stage in 2016 and has since won an Olympic gold medal, world championships and smashed the World record…twice. So how does a boy from Ulsteinvik climb to the pinnacle of sporting success? His story is an inspiration for all budding athletes, world-beaters, and future Olympians, whatever their skill, in this country.

Just a (Norwegian) small town boy…

The story of Norway’s “Golden Boy” starts in the small, unassuming town of Ulsteinvik, in More and Romsdal. Here, on February 28, 1996, parents Kristine Haddal and Mikhal Warholm welcomed a baby boy, Karsten, into the world. The family then moved to the tiny island of Dimonya (with a population of just over 1300 people) and attended Hausand School.

For a young man who has an Olympic Gold medal, and has broken two world records, for the 400m hurdles, it is surprising to realize that his first true sporting love was…football. He played as a striker for his local football and it was here that he first noticed his explosive pace. Little did his teammates then know that they were playing with a future World and Olympic champion!

Carving up defences and decathlons

After hanging up his football boots, Karsten then started to focus seriously on athletics. It was during the National Youth Championships, in 2011, that a young Karsten burst onto the national scene as a possible future star. He won the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, long jump, triple jump but only managed a silver medal in the 100m sprint. At the same event, two years, later, Warholm absolutely swept the field and won 8 gold medals. This put the Norwegian athletics world on notice: Karsten was a serious winner!

Yet, during his junior career, despite the awards and medals won, his attention was firmly fixed on not one just sport…but 10, in the form of the decathlon. This sport has been seen as particularly hard to master as an athlete has to be a threat across ten different disciplines (including, most importantly for Warholm’s story, the 400m spring and 110 meters hurdles) to win. Warholm’s best result was winning a silver medal at the 2015 European Junior Championships. Yet 2016 would turn out to be a paramount year for his athletic career.

Karsten Warholm
Photo: Heiko Junge / NTB

A first taste of the Olympic experience…but not the last

2016 was a pivotal year in the development of Warholm’s career. It was on home soil, at the Florø Athletics Festival, that Warholm broke the Norwegian record for the 400m hurdles. This would not be the first time that he broke records.

Later that year, in the Bislett Games, in his newly adopted home of Oslo, he competed against some of the best athletes in the world. As part of the annual list of World Athletics competitions, that year’s event had special meaning as it would be seen as a warm-up before the Olympics Game, in August, in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. In his now favorite 400m hurdles, then aged only 21, he finished fifth.

He then went to Amsterdam for the European Athletics Championships and further smashed the Norwegian record for 400m in the semi-finals but then only placing in his sixth place in the final.

The world’s focus then turned to Brazil and Warholm had his first taste of the Olympic experience. Yet at a relatively young age, and with only a few years of professional experience training and competing against the best in the world, he only made it to the semi-finals of his now favored event, the 400m hurdles.

Becoming a European and World champion

It was in 2017 that both Europe and the world first learned of the name of the latest speed sensation. This was the year that Warholm, finally, decided to concentrate only on the 400m hurdles.

With little less than a year purely concentrating on this event, there was little pressure, from the Norwegian press, public, or media, for the 2017 World Championships held in London. In the final, he absolutely blitzed the field, strongly finishing ahead of the current Olympic Gold Medallist, American Kerron Clement.

Just to prove this was no fluke, he then won gold again, at the 2018 European Championships, with a personal best time of 47.64 seconds. By the time he won the 400m (again) during the 2019 World Athletics Championships, he was talked about as being a serious medal contender at the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Karsten Warholm
Photo: Fredrik Hagen / NTB

Warholm’s Golden Summer

There is no doubt that this summer, the summer of 2021, will forever hold a special place in Warholm’s heart. The first event of the lead-up to the Olympics was the annual Bislett Games. Here, in front of a socially distanced but raucous home crowd, Warholm broke the world record. He ran the 400m in a record time of 46.70 seconds, beating a record that had stood since 1992.

Big things were expected of Warholm for the Tokyo Olympics this summer. Delayed a year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this did little to affect Warholm’s preparation. Warholm was amongst a star-studded field that made it into the final for the 400m hurdles on a balmy night in Tokyo.

August 3, 2021, will surely go down in Norwegian sporting folklore. The final has been described as one of the greatest races in Olympic history. Not only did Warholm win gold and break his own world record (which was set just over a month earlier) but the silver medallist, Rai Benjamin, also broke Warholm’s old world record time. Warholm absolutely blitzed the field and won in a lightning-quick time of 45.94 seconds. Warholm was so fast, in fact, that his time was faster than 18 Olympic runners in the 400m…without hurdles! With Usain Bolt retired, it seemed the Olympics, and the world, have found a new athletics superstar in Norway’s own Karsten Warholm.

Life off the track

So with a cupboard full of trophies, world records, and trophies, what does Warholm enjoy outside of athletics? In an interview with Red Bull, one of his many sponsors, he admitted that he finds building Lego sets a relaxing way to unwind outside the pressure of being a professional athlete. “It’s recreational, it’s after practice, a way to relax…Lego is my way of doing something I like to do and it’s very nostalgic.”

Warholm is also known for his zany Instagram posts with his coach, Leif Olav Alnes, showing a lighter side to their relationship. His posts have become somewhat of a viral sensation due to their quirky nature and often poking fun at his coach. His coach, and girlfriend, as well as a loving family – who watched the events of this summer, like the rest of his life, with joy and pride – seem to keep Warholm’s feet firmly planted on the ground…when they aren’t leaping over hurdles. Already a national hero, Karsten Warholm will no doubt end his career, many years from now, a national treasure.

Source: #Norway Today

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