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Karsten Warholm: Who is the Norwegian hurdler who set an astonishing record at the Tokyo Olympics

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With his trademark chest-beating roar and Viking hat, Karsten Warholm has been a colourful and confident sportsman — even before he obliterated a world record that’s older than he is.

The 25-year-old Norwegian beat American Kevin Young’s 1992 time, which had been the longest-standing record in men’s track.

He is already a national hero in his homeland, and has an effervescent outdoorsy persona that includes eye-catching fashion and hobbies ranging from fishing to Lego and car restoration.

To those familiar with him it was no surprise when he ripped open his shirt in celebration in Tokyo, declaring his performance to be possibly the “perfect race.”

Born in the town of Ulsteinvik on an island jutting into the sea on Norway’s western coast, Warholm has become one of athletics’ most consistent performers.

Not content with establishing himself as the world’s leading long hurdler, Warholm remains the holder of the Norwegian record over 400 metres flat, and was an accomplished octathlete and decathlete in his youth.

“I knew that I have had fast times in my body for a long time but it’s one thing to know that you’re in good shape and it’s another thing to be able to go out and perform,” he said in July.

 (EPA)
(EPA)

He went on to predict his Olympic success. “I really think there is more in the tank,” he said. “And it might take another world record to win the Olympics.”

Warholm’s Instagram reveals little of the hard work and training behind his extraordinary success.

Instead, there is a confident and playful young sportsman enjoying the fun of travel, often with his coach Leif Olav Alnes. “Friends that piss together, stay together,” is the caption to one picture of the pair, doing exactly that.

His girlfriend is Oda Djuvpik, a business school graduate who was diagnosed with lymph node cancer when she was 18 but has successfully completed treatment. They have been together for many years.

With a lot of spare time during the Covid-19 lockdown, Warholm got into building elaborate Lego creations including a replica Tower Bridge and Disney castle.

“To relive moments I had as a kid is nice as I’m a sentimental person, so it’s been fun getting into it again and I like old cars,” he tpld the BBC.

Warholm rips open his shirt after wining gold (Getty Images)
Warholm rips open his shirt after wining gold (Getty Images)

“I had an old [VW] Beetle built up from the bottom with an old radio because I like to cherish things from the past.”

After his record-smashing race on Tuesday, he said: “You know the cliche that it hasn’t sunk in yet? I don’t think it has, but I feel ecstatic.

“I can’t believe the time, it’s so fast. A lot of the time I am asked about the perfect race. I said it didn’t exist but this is the closest I’ve ever come.

“I told myself going in to the race, remember all the work you have put in. It was the only thing missing from my (medal) collection. I can’t describe how important this is for me. This is what I do morning until night, it’s huge.”

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