“He didn’t break the world record. He murdered it“
Those are the famous words from Ron Pickering on Butch Reynolds’ 400m WR in 1988. If you haven’t seen it, it’s on YouTube.
And that quote is so fitting for my highlight of 2021. Here’s why.
People love World Records. Period. Especially non-track die hards.
World Records (or lack of) are the primary reason why Woman’s Track events are not so popular. Hence the Woman’s Pole Vault, 400mH and Steeplechase will get the press, because those events have a better chance of being broken, clean, compared to the 100m, 200m, 400m & 800m for example.
(I’ll leave out the details of this year’s women’s 400mH for another post)
I really hope the ladies will prove me wrong in 2022 for the 100m, as we’re 0.05 seconds away under perfect conditions. It used to be tenths!
Flashback to 1979-1996, the 200m
For the longest time, the 200m world record was held by Pietro Mennea. You can read more about this training here Pietro Mennea’s Detailed Training Workouts for 200 meters and here More on Pietro Mennea’s Detailed Training Workouts
In 1996, that was 17 long years to wait for it to be broken.
I started training serious in 1984 (I was a LJ/TJ journeyman from 82-84 before converting to a 200/400m sprinter by the 85-86 season) and 19.72 was the Holy Grail.. and controversial. They say he ran so close to the line, but never touched it (back then, 3 consecutive steps was an automatic DQ, so technically, you could touch it twice). No high quality video of that WR race exist today. It’s as rare as any of the 1980 Moscow Olympic races!
And then there was the 19.73 by Mike Marsh in the 1992 200m semi-finals, an oh-so-close moment. Wind conditions and trying too hard in the final didn’t help, either. Nobody can take away that gold medal, anyways.
Then we’ve seen Michael Johnson try to break the world record many times, cross the finish line, but winning with the disappointment in his face. I would hardly call a 19.75 a disappointment! I still recall him running 43.39 400m when the WR was 43.29, and looking disappointed!
It wasn’t until the USATF 1996 Olympic Trials when he broke the record the first time… in Lane 8. Same track as the Olympics, which was torn down immediately after the game for the Atlanta Braves baseball stadium.
But the best was yet to come.
That 19.32 was a shocker, so much, he injured his hamstring, and we were denied his 42.9 in Zurich (aka CHF CHF CHF) as well as not running the 4×400 in Hotlanta.
“1932 is not a 200m time, 1932 is my Dad’s birthday” (A similar quote by Ato Boldon)
In a way, one can say that performance was Beamonesque.
Flashback to 1972, the 400mH
The 48 second barrier for the 400mH was broken in 1972 with a 47.82 by John Akii-Bua of Uganda.
I was only 9 years old at the time, and all I could remember was that “John Akii-Bua trained with a weight vest”
Read The John Akii Bua Story: An African Tragedy, a great read.
Enter Karsten Warholm, Stage Right
The 46.78 World Record for the 400m hurdles has been the Holy Grail since 1992.
That’s 28 long years. Or 29.
That WR was also Beamonesque, as nobody had broken 47 seconds before, not even Edwin “13 steps all the way” Moses.
By now, everyone heard of Karsten Warholm, and his resume included:
- 46.92 in Zurich 2019 (clipped hurdle 10, but so did Kevin Young)
- 46.70 WR in Oslo 2020 (was more of a time trial in this covid world)
Come Tokyo 2020 (held in 2021), the big bummer was I watched every Olympic PM session live (I live in the UK, so it was easy in my afternoon)
But the AM sessions were just impossible. I love Track, but not so much to watch it, as it meant 3:30AM.
And who in the right mind set Finals in the Afternoon sessions? To sell seats? What seats? Cardboard cutouts?
So I had to watch the race on ‘tape delay’, and sure enough, you could hear my jaw drop on the floor. Twice.
I could not believe it.
Breaking 47 is one thing.
Breaking 46 is another dimension. With 10 hurdles.
Most people can’t break 46 WITHOUT hurdles. Truly gifted leg speed.
Call it the lightning fast Mondo track. Call it the shoes (he wasn’t wearing the new ones). Call it the Olympic peak. Call it what you want, that 45.94 will be around for a long time. Maybe not 28 years, but it will be etched in my memory for a very long time.
Post Race Discussion
If you want to hear the post race discussion by top coaches around the world, check out our Zoom call, which was held later that day.
The big question is: “Can Karsten Warholm run faster?”
Lots of good pointers & theories, so check it out.