World 400m hurdles champion Karsten Warholm was last weekend named the male IAAF Rising Star of 2017. The 21-year-old from Norway says that his switch from decathlon to his current event has been one of the most demanding obstacles in his career so far.
Change of events
"I was a former combined eventer (Warholm won the 2013 world U18 octathlon title) but I struggled with the throwing events. My coach Leif Olav Alnes, who is a very clever guy, came to the conclusion the 400m hurdles might be an event I could do well at. I was always quite a fast 400m flat runner without being top-class and I had lots of experience as a left-leg lead 110m hurdler, so in late 2015 we decided to try to train for the 400m hurdles.
"Another motivation to switch events was the opportunity to compete more regularly. I love to compete and the chance to race in the Diamond League, national championships and other events compared to maybe two or three decathlons a year also appealed.
"I always liked the variety of training for lots of events, but in many ways the 400m hurdles is such a technical event I never get bored because there is always something new to work on.
"That first season as a 400m hurdler, in 2016, I was very inconsistent, running between high 49s to the national record of 48.49 I recorded in the heats at the Rio Olympics (he exited the semi-finals). It took some time to find the rhythm of the event.
"One of the biggest challenges for me is I only hurdle with a left-leg lead. I am working hard to use my right leg too but it hasn’t happened yet. It is a work in progress. I know this is something which will help me run the 400m hurdles more efficiently in future.
"I am fortunate that I work with Leif who can draw from 40 years’ coaching experience. He has so much knowledge but is always trying to improve himself as a coach. To work with someone like that is so inspiring for me.
"The moment I knew the hurdles were starting to click came in Finland in February when I equalled the world indoor 300m hurdles best time of 34.92. It was a performance when I felt I had a good flow over the hurdles and that the speed was there. I then returned to training from February through to May and further built on my training.
"To then come out in the summer season and win the world 400m hurdles title proves it was the right decision to switch events. I would also say, though, that the victory was the result of 10 years of training, many of them as a decathlete and I would recommend to others that training for many events can definitely help lead to future success."
Steve Landells for the IAAF