Athletics

Lego-builder Karsten Warholm fires broadside as track returns in Monaco

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STADIO PIERO DE PAOLI, CHIERI, Athletics (Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)
STADIO PIERO DE PAOLI, CHIERI, Athletics (Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Karsten Warholm has interspersed training in the coronavirus-enforced lockdown with building Lego models, but the Norwegian hurdler is out for more glory when track competition returns in Monaco on Friday.

After a raft of postponements and cancellations of athletics meets, most notably the Tokyo Olympics, Monaco will host the season-opening Diamond League, with Warholm having badgered meet organisers to include his favoured 400 metre hurdles.

The 24-year-old, however, admitted he had not run the event since winning his second world gold in Doha, some 10 months ago.

Despite that, Warholm smashed the long-standing world record in the rarely-run 300m hurdles in Oslo in June, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact he ran solo.

"It's hard to tell whether I'm going to run really fast," he said Thursday. "I feel good... Time will tell."

Either way, Warholm was in no doubt that he would leave everything out on the newly-laid track at the Stade Louis II, where Olympic rings painted on the ground outside have provided ample motivation.

"(Coach) Leif (Olav Alnes) said 'This is our Olympics', and I was like 'yeah, sounds good'," said Warholm.

"This is somehow the start of our short season. The way the world is now, we don't know if it's our last race or there'll be a couple more, time will show.

"But I'm going to run tomorrow's race as if it's my last this year."

Warholm added that for months he had had no direct competition, but argued that that factor would make him "more nervous and give me more positive energy".

"It's going to be great to run against my competitors again... and also in front of an audience.

"It's been a long time and it's what I live for," he said.

- Tokyo delay 'sad but right' -

Warholm called the postponement by 12 months of the Tokyo Olympics to 2021 "sad", but the correct call.

"Everybody was looking forward to the Olympic Games," he said. "But their postponement at this time was right. I hope there is a time when we can have an Olympic Games in Tokyo.

"It's really sad and I hope to be back to normal as soon as possible."

Warholm, whose Lego-building feats included recreations of Manchester United's Old Trafford ground and London's Tower Bridge, praised the "guts" of Monaco in pushing ahead with the meet.

Meet director Jean-Pierre Schoebel dubbed Friday's edition "special and particularly difficult".

"We had to reinvent the organisation of the meet: how to welcome athletes, how to welcome the public, in the strictest of health and safety protocols," he said.

Spectator attendance has been capped at 5,000, with social distancing enforced in the stands and mask-wearing mandatory.

"The only people allowed to not wear masks are the athletes!" Schoebel said, adding that the stellar line-up of track stars were all accommodated in a hotel adjoining the stadium with direct access to the warm-up area.

All athletes also had to take a Covid-19 test 72 hours before competition to show they had not been infected, a necessary precaution that has certainly not deterred them from making the trip to Monaco, according to Schoebel.

"Never have negotiations been as easy with agents and athletes," the meet director said. "They want to compete."

Warholm added: "We see other sports getting up and running and it's important for track and field to do the same."

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