OSLO, NORWAY, JUNE 11—It almost felt like a track meet for those watching the broadcast, and maybe for the cardboard cutout spectators in the stands on the backstretch, as well. Karsten Warholm was feeling it for sure. The local hero dropped down in distance to the 300 hurdles and running solo demolished Briton Chris Rawlinson’s unofficial World Record by 0.7 with a 33.78 clocking at The Impossible Games. The creatively formatted meet was conducted in lieu of the traditional Bislett Games DL per Norwegian COVID-19 social distancing rules.
Chasing hard after the standard for three-quarters of his usual distance, our reigning Athlete Of The Year attacked from the gun with a lifting stride reminiscent of a speed-oriented long jumper on the runway. He flew smoothly over the first two hurdles, seemed to make tiny pattern adjustments at 3 and 4 and then rolled through the turn and over the final 3 hurdles with efficiency in his favorite lane, No. 7.
Seven is also the number of hurdles in this version of the event, one less than the 8 barriers run in the U.S. at the high school level.
“This is crazy,” said Warholm of his seasonal debut effort. “We have trained well. I feel great now, really great. It is nice to feel the adrenaline again and compete.” Even if only with himself and the clock.
“It was a little bit strange without spectators,” the two-time 400H world champ admitted, “but I know I had the people behind me at home [watching on TV].”
A pre-run word from his coach, Leif Olav Alnæs, about what was not impossible spurred Warholm on: “Alnæs said to me earlier today that it was possible to beat the ‘World Record’ by half a second. It sounded crazy then, but it also gave me hope and motivation.”
Warholm’s execution was sharp but his warmup? Not so much. “I had a bad warmup and hit one of the hurdles, one of my toes was hurt,” he said. “I don’t know if is broken or not, we will know later. This made me more nervous before the start.”
The record was no softball in the hurdler’s estimation. “I broke the record because I have trained hard, not because this was an ‘easy’ record to beat.” (quotes from Espen Hartvig, NTB)
While Warholm competed alone, Mondo Duplantis—who traveled from his Uppsala, Sweden, summer training base to Oslo by car—had three Norwegian vaulters in the stadium for company and Renaud Lavillenie for competition. The Frenchman vaulted on his garden runway, a disadvantage because it is not full length, and submitted pre-recorded video of his attempts. Before each of Mondo’s tries the Louisiana Swede was notified as to Lavillenie’s success or failure as though it had just happened. Lavillenie had it the other way, he was free to experience the comp with his feet up in an easy chair. Maybe he did.
The WR holder never trailed his predecessor, as Lavillenie needed three tries to get over the 17-7 (5.36) opening height. Duplantis opened at 18-1 and made on first while Lavillenie again needed 3 tries to get over. The Frenchman had his chance at 18-4¾ (5.61) which he cleared on his first. Mondo needed two at the height. Both men shot over 19-¾ (5.81) at first time of asking and the next setting, 19-2¾ (5.86), sealed the result. Duplantis needed 3 to get over, Lavillenie clattered the bar thrice and went out.
Mondo attempted a stadium record 19-8½ (6.01), but none of his tries were close. “I wanted to jump a little bit higher but I knew I wasn’t in the best shape of my life right now,” he admitted. “I know I’m rusty!”
With much of the world still severely travel restricted, Norwegians and Swedes got the rest of the spotlight, though the meet went off on a still partially cloudy Scandinavian evening with temperatures in the 70s. Norway’s Ingebrigtsen brothers featured prominently First middle brother Filip, with three pacers, targeted ’96 Olympic 800 champ Vebjørn Rodal’s national 1000 record of 2:16.78.
After rabbit Thomas Arne Roth pulled the train past 600 in 1:21.20, Ingebrigtsen glided away alone from 200 out and crossed the line in 2:16.45 to eclipse his previous PR of 2:16.95 and Rodal’s national standard. Ingebrigtsen split 55.28 for his final circuit and then faced 45 minutes of recovery before his next start in the 2000.
The 5-lapper was really socially distanced, a 3-man team race between the Ingebrigtsens and Kenyan milers Timothy Cheruiyot, Elijah Manangoi and Edwin Melly in Nairobi 4000 miles away. The Nairobi track’s 1658m (5441) elevation presented a challenge for “Team Cheruiyot” and a wet oval and wind only exacerbated it. Split-screen home viewers watched Team Ingebrigtsen seize their advantage. That too was exacerbated as a pace lighting system on the curb provided perfect feedback for the rabbits to set up a hoped-for European Record. Maybe the shortlived ITA pro circuit was on to something when it introduced pace lights in ’73!
The youngest and most accomplished Ingebrigtsen, Jakob, moved up front when the last pacer dropped back around 1400m, passed 1600 in 3:55.85 and burned through his final circuit to finish in 4:50.01—Steve Cram’s 4:51.39 European Record from ’85 successfully cracked. After world 1500 champ Cheruiyot led his crew home through the East African wind in 5:03.05, the team times were added up and the Norwegian brothers prevailed easily, 14:40.64–15:34.80. Henrik Ingebrigtsen ran 4:53.72, while Filip doubled back in less than an hour in 4:56.91.
Discus world champion Daniel Ståhl won with 216-3 (65.92) over a respectable-for-these-times field. Swedish athletes have a headstart on training this year with relatively relaxed pandemic restrictions in their country, and Ståhl training mate Simon Pettersson took 2nd at 211-9 (64.54).
With pacing help, Sondre Moen essayed a big 25,000m performance on the track after the broadcast window. The Norwegian’s 1:12:46.5 time for the rarely run 15.534M (67.5 laps) event was the No. 2 all-time performance and Moen produced it with 10,000/20,000 splits of 28:37.9 and 57:55.0.
The Impossible Games women’s events slate paled somewhat for quality next to the men’s, unfortunately. Olympic 400 hurdles silver medalist Sara Slott Petersen of Denmark won the women’s 300H in 39.42 from ’17 NCAA 400H 3rd-placer Amalie Iuel of Norway and formerly USC.
Another quality mark came from Norwegian cross country skier Therese Johaug, who soloed a year-leading 31:40.67 for 10,000 near the end of the program.
Chances for a close 600 duel dimmed when Switzerland’s Selina Büchel dropped a suicidal 25.90 first 200 in a 2-woman race. With Büchel’s fate sealed, Hynne Hedda pulled ahead to win by more than a second, 1:29.06–1:30.10.
OSLO DIAMOND LEAGUE RESULTS
Impossible Games/Bislett DL; Oslo, Norway, June 11—
1000: 1. Filip Ingebrigtsen (Nor) 2:16.46 NR (WL).
2000: I–1. Jakob Ingebrigtsen (Nor) 4:50.01 NR (WL) (6, 9 W);
2. Henrik Ingebrigtsen (Nor) 4:53.72; 3. F. Ingebrigtsen (Nor) 4:56.91.
II (held in Nairobi)–1. Timothy Cheruiyot (Ken) 5:03.05; 2. Elijah Manangoi (Ken) 5:18.63.
25,000: 1. Sondre Moen (Nor) 1:12:46.5 NR (2, 2 W) (28:37.9, 57:55.0) (Hour: 20,703m [12.87M]—9, 12 W)
300H: 1. Karsten Warholm (Nor) 33.78 WR (old WR 34.48 Chris Rawlinson [GB] ’02).
PV: 1. Mondo Duplantis (Swe) 19-2¾ (5.86) (18-1, 18-4¾ , 18-8¾, 19-¾, 19-2¾ , 19-8½ [xxx]) (5.51, 5.61 , 5.71, 5.81, 5.86 , 6.01 [xxx]); 2. Renaud Lavillenie (Fra) 19-¾ (5.81) (vaulting by remote from home on short runway); 3. Pål Haugen Lillefosse (Nor) 18-4¾ (5.61); 4. Simen Guttormsen (Nor) 17-1 (5.21).
SP: 1. Marcus Thomsen (Nor) 69-0 (21.03); 2. Wictor Petersson (Swe) 68-8½ (20.94).
DT: 1. Daniel Ståhl (Swe) 216-3 (65.92); 2. Simon Pettersson (Swe) 211-9 (64.54); 3. Ola Stunes Isene (Nor) 202-11 (61.85); 4. Sven Martin Skagestad (Nor) 198-1 (60.38).
600: 1. Hedda Hynne (Nor) 1:29.06; 2. Selina Büchel (Swi) 1:30.10.
10,000: 1. Therese Johaug (Nor) 31:40.67 (WL).
200H: 1. Line Kloster (Nor) 26.11; 2. Nooralotta Neziri (Fin) 26.65; 3. Annimari Korte (Fin) 26.70; 4. Isabelle Pedersen (Nor) 28.11.
300H: 1. Sara Slott Petersen (Den) 39.42; 2. Amalie Iuel (Nor) 39.44; 3. Léa Sprunger (Swi) 39.86. ◻︎