BERLIN (Reuters) - Karsten Warholm landed the first leg of a potentially “crazy” one-lap double when he won a world-class 400 meters hurdles battle at the European Championships on Thursday — 24 hours before he guns for a second gold in the flat 400m final.
On a night when Turkey’s Ramil Guliyev produced a dazzling 200m win worthy of the Olympic Stadium that has seen so many historic sprints, Norway’s young world one-lap hurdles champion Warholm prevailed in maybe the best duel of the week.
One of the sport’s rising stars, he dethroned reigning European champion Yasmani Copello in 47.64 seconds, a lifetime best and a European Under-23 record.
In a fascinating battle between style and power, the graceful 31-year-old Cuban-born Turk Copello pushed the 22-year-old all the way, clocking a national record 47.81sec only for the Norwegian’s strength to tell over the final 50 meters.
It set up Warholm, who became Norway’s first world track champion in 30 years in London last year, for an attempt at the audacious double when he goes in the 400m final on Friday.
Laughing about his “crazy” attempt, Warholm had joked before the Championships: “I ran a 400m recently, went home, grew some new balls, thought about it for a second and was like, ‘this can be fun’. You only live once, so I’m going for it.”
Warholm ran both events at the European Under-23 championships in 2017 when he won silver in the flat race and gold in the hurdles but, sounding a bit weary, he knows it will be even harder on Friday.
“This race was sick. I had to run even faster than I thought to beat Copello. Today was my most important race so we’ll just have to see what’s left in my legs tomorrow,” Warholm said.
When Guliyev won the world 200m title in London last year, athletics wondered if this surprise champion might just be a flash in the pan but he dismissed any doubts about his caliber as he destroyed the half-lap field in 19.76 seconds.
It was the second-fastest ever 200m by a European, only bettered by Italian Pietro Mennea’s altitude-assisted 19.72 set in Mexico in 1979.
“I’m so happy. I have one goal more and that’s to make a new European record and then, in my career, Olympic gold,” said the 28-year-old.
The rest were effectively distant also-rans, none able to break 20 seconds, with Britain’s Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake taking silver in 20.04 and Jamaican-born Alex Wilson setting a new Swiss record in the same time.
France’s evergreen 33-year-old Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad won a fourth 3,000m steeplechase title, and his fifth European gold in total, as he loped away from Spain’s Fernando Carro on the last lap, winning in 8:31.66.
A 40,000-plus crowd cheered a home one-two in the javelin with Olympic champion Thomas Roehler beating Andreas Hofmann to gold with an 89.47m throw.
Belarusian Elvira Herman won the 100m hurdles in 12.67sec to consign the German pair of Pamela Dutkiewicz and Cindy Roleder to the minor medals.
Ekaterini Stefanidi, Greece’s pole vault master who owns all the major outdoor titles, successfully defended her title with a 4.85 meters effort, ahead of her compatriot Nikoleta Kiriakopoulou.
The battle to find Europe’s top all-round woman athlete is building into a potential classic with Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson leading Belgium’s world and Olympic champion Nafissatou Thiam by just 87 points on 4,017 after four of the seven heptathlon events.
Reporting by Ian Chadband, editing by Ed Osmond