DOHA: Norway’s Karsten Warholm said he felt he was “going to die” as he held off close rival Rai Benjamin to defend his world 400m hurdles title in Doha.
The 23-year-old took the lead with 150m remaining and stayed just ahead of the American to win in 47.42 seconds, with Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba third.
“This was a very tough race. I actually felt my heart was going to stop,” Warholm told BBC Sport. “I thought ‘I’m going to die but it’s going to be worth it’.”
Warholm’s shocked reaction in winning his first world title two years ago became one of the most iconic moments of London 2017. His form has been equally brilliant this season in the build-up to the championships, having recorded 46.92 to move to second on the all-time list behind the USA’s Kevin Young, whose world record of 46.78 has stood for 27 years.
However, Benjamin, 22, also dipped under 47 seconds this season, which made the men’s 400m hurdles one of the most eagerly anticipated of the championships. “This is only the beginning and I am very lucky to win,” Warholm added. “It’s deserved but in the future these guys will be tougher to beat. Tomorrow I have to get up and work again. That is what I love. Norway is a small country. For me to be showing off on the world stage, it’s better than anything else.”