High-tech shoes hurt credibility: Warholm

Karsten Warholm and Rai Benjamin racing in the Olympic 400m hurdles semi-finals. The Norwegian criticised the American's thick-soled shoes despite the former wearing spikes with a carbon plate that can enhance performance.
Karsten Warholm and Rai Benjamin racing in the Olympic 400m hurdles semi-finals. The Norwegian criticised the American's thick-soled shoes despite the former wearing spikes with a carbon plate that can enhance performance.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

OSLO • Norwegian hurdler Karsten Warholm is not against innovation in sports but feels the new carbon-technology shoes are hurting athletes' credibility, said the men's 400m hurdles champion at the Tokyo Olympics.

The 25-year-old shaved 0.76 of a second from his own world record - a massive margin in a one-lap race - to hold off American Rai Benjamin to win in what would be remembered as one of the all-time great Olympic races.

Benjamin took silver in 46.17, also half-a-second inside Warholm's previous record of 46.70 while Brazilian Alison dos Santos took bronze in 46.72 as six of the first seven set national or continental records.

Following his victory, Warholm criticised Benjamin's thick-soled shoes despite also wearing spikes with a carbon plate that unquestionably improves performance.

"What I said was misunderstood in some way because I had one comment about it after the race and it just blew up and that wasn't my plan at all," he said.

"To be honest, I don't know if that shoe (Nike) is the best shoe. My shoe (Puma) is maybe just as good but that's not what it is about. I haven't done the science.

"When somebody does a great performance now, everybody will question if it's the shoe, and that is the credibility problem."

With a super-speedy track at Tokyo's Olympic Stadium to aid, Sydney McLaughlin, too, shattered her own world record ahead of fellow American Dalilah Muhammad, who was also inside the old mark, in the women's race. The sprints also witnessed fast times.

Warholm added that he wanted athletes, and not technology, to get more credit, even though he was all for technology "pushing it a little bit forward".

"Hopefully somebody is doing the research and hopefully World Athletics are there to protect both athletes but also the audience," he said.

"People sitting at home. I don't want them to feel like they've been fooled or tricked. I want there to be credibility."

Warholm looked surprised when he saw the astonishing time after going past the finish line in Tokyo. He ripped his vest apart and beat his chest in celebration before sinking to his knees.

"I was just a bit embarrassed that I wasn't able to rip the shirt like fully off," he said with a smile.

"But it was a lot of emotions... it's something I wanted really bad. With the Olympics, it's not a medal that you can fight for every year."

Warholm, a two-time world champion in 400m hurdles, said he was ready to try new events.

"The first natural one would be the 400m without hurdles. I'm also dreaming about doing a great 800 once, but that's going to take some years and a different type of training. So I'm not ready to go there just yet," he said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2021, with the headline 'High-tech shoes hurt credibility: Warholm'. Subscribe