BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — For the world’s fastest hurdler and a pair of pole-vaulting buddies, this felt like a fun repeat of track and field’s greatest hits.
Norway's Karsten Warholm powered to victory in the 400-meter hurdles Wednesday night, then put on his trademark Viking horns to celebrate his third gold medal at the world championships.
His win came only moments after pole vaulters Katie Moon of America and Nina Kennedy of Australia, in a scene similar to one that played out two years ago at the Tokyo Olympics, chose to share two gold medals instead of jump in a tiebreaker for one.
“We've been friends for so long,” Kennedy said. “So, super special.”
Warholm's story goes back to six years ago at worlds, where he became a meme when he crossed the line first and reacted with a look of pure shock (think Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” ). He celebrated a gold medal he didn’t fully expect by donning Viking horns for his post-race celebration.
Two years ago at the Olympics, Warholm was far more established — his post-race celebrations expected fare — when he set the world record (45.94) in what remains one of the fastest races in the history of track. But coming into this week, there were questions, mainly because of injuries that made him a non-factor at worlds last year in Oregon.
“You build yourself up, the media builds you up, and afterward, they need a disaster story to start to talk you down,” Warholm said. “And I just find a lot of motivation in that.”
He found plenty in the story bubbling through the championships this week about how Warholm might have gone around, not over, a hurdle in Monday's semifinal round. The evidence looks different from different angles. Alas, no protest was filed in the 30-minute window after that race, so no appeal was ever considered.
It was, in retrospect, the only way anyone would've stopped him. Warholm ran 46.89 for a three-stride and .45-second blowout over surprise silver medalist Kyron McMaster of the British Virgin Islands. Rai Benjamin added bronze to go with silvers at two worlds and the Olympics and defending champion Alison Dos Santos of Brazil clipped two hurdles down the stretch and finished fifth.
“I just said ‘If you can’t beat them, DQ them,'” Warholm said.
Over in the pole vault pit, exhaustion was setting in after Moon and Kennedy each missed their three attempts at 4.95 meters (16 feet, 2 3/4 inches).
Both were thinking about the good vibes that flowed in Tokyo two years ago when high jumpers Mutaz Barshim (Qatar) and Gianmarco Tamberi (Italy) were in the same situation and were told it would fine if they stayed tied for first instead of going into a grueling jump-off.
They agreed, and much hugging and bedlam ensued, along with heartfelt declarations about the true Olympic spirit. This time, as the pole vaulters huddled, with the referees and cameras poking in, there were hugs, too. But it was as much about sportsmanship as a sense of relief on a hot, humid night in which neither athlete had much more to give.
“I'm at a point where I've given it my all,” Moon said. “We went out and we both did pretty much the exact same thing and it just felt right. We both won today, so it was the right call.”
The evening's other unexpected moment came courtesy of Josh Kerr, who became the second British runner in two years to knock off heavy favorite Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway in the 1,500.
Coming into the race as a 1-7 betting favorite, Ingebrigtsen woke up with a scratchy throat that kept getting worse. By the time he got to the start, he knew he was not at 100%.
“I feel very unlucky being in this situation,” Ingebrigtsen said.
The 22-year-old, who is expected to defend his title in the 5,000 later this week, surged to the lead at about the 500-meter mark and led for the next two laps. But Kerr stayed right on his heels, and with a half-lap to go, he pulled even. Then, he passed and held on for the win by .27 seconds.
Kerr finished in 3 minutes, 29.28 seconds and now joins Jake Wightman, who was injured this year, in a pantheon of British middle-distance champions that also includes Sebastian Coe, the leader of World Athletics who was on the track to give Kerr his medal.
“If he was sick, it's such a shame that he wasn't able to put together a performance he was proud of,” Kerr said. “But I did, and that's just the reality of it.”
In the night's other final, the women’s 400 meters was a runaway for Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic, who won in 48.76. She beat Natalia Kaczmarek, who finished in 49.57 to become the first man or woman from Poland to take a world medal in the 400.
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