Maybe God really is from Sunnmøre, like its native Karsten Warholm claimed before following through on his plan to defend his World Championship in Doha. The rest of Norway’s “Super Monday” line-up didn’t do nearly as well, but Warholm preserved the country’s honour despite donning silly Viking horns once again.
The good-humoured 23-year-old from Ulsteinvik in Sunnmøre had, after all, told some American reporters that “of course” he’d beat his biggest rival Rai Benjamin when they asked. “I’m ready, I’m a f***ing Viking!”
They laughed, according to newspaper Aftenposten, and didn’t take offense. “He’s great, that guy,” one of them reportedly remarked. Warholm confirmed that, by running the 400-meter hurdles faster than anyone else Monday night. His time of 47.42 seconds allowed him to defend his World Championship title from London with, he told state broadcaster NRK, his heart in his throat.
“This is so great for me, it’s almost impossible to describe,” he told NRK after making his victory round of the grandstands, draping himself in a Norwegian flag and, yes, putting on the Viking helmet. He quickly shared the glory with his coach Leif Olav Alnes, who’d already told newspaper Aftenposten that sometimes the outspoken Warholm “should be protected from himself.” Alnes told NRK that they had tried “to get him to be the best version of himself. I am incredibly satisfied.”
So was Warholm: “He told me to think about how much we work, what we do to make this work. I did this for us. It’s that inner team feeling that applies.”
Benjamin of the US placed second and another top rival Abderrahman Samba was third on his home turf in Qatar.
Norway’s other top athletes didn’t meet expectations. The three Ingebrigtsen brothers, all running in the men’s 5,000 meter race, were medal candidates who didn’t excel: Filip had to drop out of the race, Henrik finished 13th while young Jakob finished 5th behind winners from Ethiopia and Canada. Muktar Edris and Selemon Barega placed first and second, while Mohammed Ahmed of Canada was third.
The Norwegian runners’ father and coach Gjert Ingebrigtsen was typically harsh in his evaluation of their performance, always pointing out their mistakes instead of offering much praise. “I’m not sure much good comes out of Gjert standing there and offering his opinions,” Henrik told NRK. “Jakob ran perfectly, I wouldn’t have changed anything. It will be difficult to beat him in the years to come.”
Jakob was clearly exhausted when it was all over and his two brothers had to help him off the track. The evening nonetheless marked a huge accomplishment, and itwas historic for three brothers to all qualify for the finals at a World Championship, and allow Norway to grab so many spots in the race at all. Jakob Ingebrigtsen, meanwhile, has been most focused on the 1,500-meter race, calling it the most important for him.
Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal, meanwhile, was reduced to tears after only placing 13th in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase. She was the sixth Norwegian athlete competing in finals on Monday, and Norway had never had so many qualify and compete on the same day. She wasn’t considered a medal candidate, but thought she’d do better and claimed she almost dropped out of the race.
She’s still looking forward to the women’s 5,000-meter race later in the World Championships, saying that event “suits her muscles better” than the “start-stop” race with hurdles in the steeplechase. Now and the Ingebrigtsens will rest up before the action continues for most of them. Warholm will go home to Norway as the “hypocrite” he earlier proclaimed himself to be, but holding Norway’s only medal so far, and in gold at that.