Almost a year ago, Karsten Warholm burst onto the global athletics stage with a blistering run to take the 400m men’s hurdles world title in London – Norway’s first gold medal in the sport for 30 years – while winning over fans with an equally memorable pre-race ritual and post-race celebration. Here, he shares his advice on how to execute the race of your life.
Stay focused during your preparation
We have a very professional warm-up schedule, and before the event I felt like we were working very efficiently and doing all of the things we were supposed to do. We had people on the team taking care of the logistics; my coach [Leif Olav Alnes] and I only had to focus on our tasks – the other guys were putting up the hurdles and taking care of water bottles and clothing. I just had to stay in the zone, and we went through our routine.
Respect your opponents, but try to stay relaxed
I’m the type of guy who likes to talk to his competitors, but on the other hand I have to respect the fact that not everyone likes to talk when they’re in their zone. You have to respect that. But for me, it’s a mix of being focused and relaxed – because this is supposed to be fun, right? That’s why we all got into it – because it’s fun, and because we like competing. I don’t think we should forget that.
Conserve energy in the earlier rounds
I went out hard in the final, just like my heat and semi-final; the only difference was that I was pushing all the way to the line. In the semi-finals, I was cooling it down a little bit into the last two hurdles to save some energy, as I knew that I was in front and that I would qualify. That’s all I needed to know.
Do whatever works for you
I mostly train with my coach and some female athletes, so in training I really need to push myself. The whole thing about me making noises and pumping myself up at the start line is mostly for my own benefit. I don’t really like it that much, but it’s important for my performance – and that’s what I train for. I will do anything to get the performance that I want.
Work with the media, without compromising your performance
I think it’s smart to spend time away from the media when you’re in your zone, but you should also give something back – because [you and the media] often depend on each other. The Norwegian media was crazy [during London 2017]. I’m proud, and I enjoy seeing people appreciating my results, because it’s been a lot of hard work.
Find your own drive
You should not make [your event] too difficult. Only a few years ago I wasn’t that good at an international level, so it’s just about having fun with what you do – don’t overthink it. Don’t feel like you need to make it overly professional. It’s just about keeping your feet on the ground and enjoying what you’re doing. Not everyone can win a gold medal, but it’s just about finding the goal that drives you. I think that’s important.