When brash Norwegian hurdler Karsten Warholm led the field to the starting line on a steamy afternoon at Olympic Stadium, he and his seven opponents had every reason to expect they'd be part of something special. It turned out to be more than that. This gathering of the world's best 400-meter hurdlers Tuesday produced a gold medal for Warholm, a world record, a masterpiece, and a slice of history. It also might have been one of the best races ever run. "I never thought in my wildest imagination that this would be possible," Warholm said after smashing his own world record in a time of 45.94 seconds, per the AP. In deciding where the race stands in the annals of Olympic history, there's a lot to consider:
- The man who finished behind Warholm, Rai Benjamin of the US, ran more than half a second faster than any other hurdler in history: 46.17.
- The third-place finisher, Alison Dos Santos of Brazil, finished in 46.72, which would've been a world record five weeks earlier.
- The man who finished seventh in the eight-man field, Rasmus Magi of Estonia, was barely in the frame of photos taken from behind the finish line. But he was one of six to set either a world, continental, or national record.
Warholm's pull-away win eclipsed his month-old world record by 0.76 seconds. As recently as June 30, the 400-meter hurdle record stood at 46.78, set by American Kevin Young at the 1992 Barcelona Games. On July 1, Warholm brought it down to 46.7. Only a week before that, at US Olympic trials, Benjamin had run 46.83, becoming the fourth man to crack 47. After the run, he announced he felt he had a "low 46" in him somewhere, maybe in Tokyo. That back-and-forth set the stage for Tuesday, and a showdown between rivals who've brought this event to a pinnacle not seen since the 1980s. As Warholm crossed the finish line and his time flashed on the scoreboard, he tore open his jersey: "Pure emotions coming out." He added, "I've always said that the perfect race doesn't exist. But this is the closest I think I've come to a perfect race." "I don't think any race really compares to what we just did," Benjamin concurred.
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