DOHA (Reuters) - Norway’s Karsten Warholm completed a perfect season by blazing to world championship gold in the 400 meters hurdles on Monday while Abderrahman Samba finally gave the hosts something to cheer by claiming a bronze to secure Qatar’s first medal.
The silky smooth Warholm, the second fastest ever over the distance, did not come close to Kevin Young’s world record that many thought might fall but his time of 47.42 was good enough to ensure a successful defense of his title.
The Norwegian’s great rival American Rai Benjamin, who was on crutches just two weeks ago suffering from a bruised heel, took silver in 47.66 while Samba delighted the home fans by grabbing bronze. Young’s world mark is 46.78 seconds.
“It’s easy to say afterwards that this was going to happen but I wasn’t too sure to be honest,” said Warholm.
“This was a very hard race, I had a pain in my chest, I thought I was going to die but here I am world champion.
“Norway is only a small country so to be showing up on the world stage is amazing.”
For the final event of the night the athletes were introduced with a spectacular light show worthy of a race expected to produce fireworks.
With three of the four quickest men ever in the event on the starting blocks, the 400m hurdles was circled early as the marquee event of the world championships.
The race was expected to come down to a duel between the Norwegian and the American who pushed each other to career best times in Zurich in August and it unfolded as predicted.
There has been precious little for Qataris to cheer at Khalifa Stadium but the home fans were on their feet when Samba, the third fastest man of all time, stepped onto the track.
The cheers echoing through the stadium were a welcome change for the hosts who have endured days of criticism over sparse attendances and searing temperatures that have forced some competitions to begin in the middle of the night.
The women’s 3,000m steeplechase and the men’s 5,000m drew the first real noise of the championships as a crowd seemed to magically appear midway through the session.
But by the time the 400m hurdles began the fans that suddenly appeared had all but vanished, even the possibility of a rare medal unable to convince them to stay.
Samba did not seem to notice and could not hide his delight at landing on the podium.
“I’m not happy... I’m over the moon,” said the beaming Qatari. “If I could find the words now I would but there are no words for how I am feeling right now.
“I want to thank you so much the people coming to the stadium. I was fighting to the end.
“I want to dedicate my medal to the people of Qatar.
Reporting by Steve Keating; Editing by Ken Ferris