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U.S. Nabs Olympic Silver In The Fastest Men's 400-Meter Hurdles Ever

Norway's Karsten Warholm reacts after winning the men's 400-meter hurdles final on Tuesday at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Norway's Karsten Warholm reacts after winning the men's 400-meter hurdles final on Tuesday at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

TOKYO — We'll be talking about this race for years to come.

Two of the three fastest competitors ever in the event were on the starting line of the men's 400-meter hurdles final at the Tokyo Olympics — and both beat the previous world record time by a wide margin.

Norway's Karsten Warholm took gold, breaking his own world record with a time of 45.94. He smashed it by about three-quarters of a second.

"I just ran with my life. I would die for that gold medal today," Warholm said.

Behind him was Rai Benjamin of the U.S. with a blazing fast 46.17.

"It's a lot to process. I cried a little bit," Benjamin, 25, said after the race. "But I am really happy to be a part of history like this and just to show, like, where this event can go."

"If you would have told me that I was going to run a 46.1 [second race] and lose, I would probably beat you up and tell you to get out of my room," he said with a smile.

Even the bronze medalist, Brazil's Alison dos Santos, broke an Olympic record that had stood for nearly 30 years.

For some perspective on how shocking it is for a hurdler to clock a 45-second race, consider this: 13 of the men competing in the semifinal of the flat 400 race at these Olympics clocked times that were 45s. And they didn't have to jump over 10 hurdles on the way to the finish line.

"Let that sink in to how fast these boys are running," said Kyron McMaster of the British Virgin Islands, who placed fourth in the race.

"After the second hurdle, I was like, 's***,'" McMaster said, realizing the leaders were surging ahead. "Especially running with these guys, if you go after them, it's suicidal."

About a month ago, Warholm broke the world record in his first 400-meter hurdles of the season — and he said he knew he could do it again. "But I'm actually surprised that I ran that fast."

Benjamin was clear about where he thought this race stacked up: "That was the best race in Olympic history."

Warholm wouldn't go that far when asked whether he shared the opinion. "Your words, not mine, but I think it's up there."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.