Devastating truth behind 'greatest race in Olympics history'

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USA's Rai Benjamin was heartbroken despite claiming silver behind Karsten Warholm in the 400m hurdles. Pic: NBC/Getty
USA's Rai Benjamin was heartbroken despite claiming silver behind Karsten Warholm in the 400m hurdles. Pic: NBC/Getty

It's not often that an athlete looks shattered after smashing a world record at the Olympic Games.

For Rai Benjamin, that was the sad reality the American hurdler faced after a moment in Tokyo that some viewers described as the greatest race ever seen at an Olympic Games.

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Norway's Karsten Warholm shocked the world after claiming gold in the 400m hurdles in a time few thought was possible.

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Warholm clocked a remarkable 45.94 seconds, pulverising his previous world best of 46.70 seconds.

To put it into perspective, only four runners in history have clocked sub-47 second times, let alone broken the 46-second barrier.

“It’s Bolt-like ... It is Beamanesque. It’s rare. What Johnson did in Atlanta in 1996 and Bolt did. It takes you to a place you never thought you would go to,” Bruce McAvaney said in commentary for Channel 7.

“It will go down as the greatest 400m hurdles ever run and arguably the greatest race we have seen at an Olympic Games. What a contest.”

Co-commentator Tamsyn Manou added: “We have just seen the most magnificent race at an Olympics in history.”

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In claiming the silver medal, American Benjamin also broke the previous world record after clocking a blistering time of 46.17 seconds.

At any other Olympic Games in history, it would have been enough to win gold and Benjamin would be celebrating on top of the podium as a world record holder.

The brutal reality of the moment left the American devastated after the race, with the 24-year-old choking back tears in a heartbreaking interview.

Seen here, USA's Rai Benjamin looks stunned after winning silver in the 400m hurdles final.
USA's Rai Benjamin couldn't believe he didn't win gold in the 400m hurdles final. Pic: Getty

The American wept uncontrollably as he told his family watching on that he was sorry he couldn't bring a gold medal home for them.

It was a gut-wrenching moment for the runner, but he found a mountain of support from fans on social media, who celebrated the American's extraordinary achievement.

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Karsten Warholm feat shocks world

Brazil's Alison dos Santos claiming bronze in a time of 46.72, which also represented a regional record and a new personal best.

It was all about Warholm's ridiculous piece of history after the race though, with the Norwegian's feat leaving even the man himself stunned.

"I dream about it like a maniac," he said. "I sleep all night on it. I spend all my time thinking about this, so just getting this last medal into my collection, it's complete."

Warholm added: "I didn’t touch one hurdle. I was even able to find another gear coming home, so ‘wow’. It's just so big. It's almost like history here.

"The Olympic gold medal is what everybody talks about. I knew this race was going to be the toughest of my life, but I was ready."

Seen here, Karsten Warholm broke his own 400m hurdles world record after an incredible race.
Karsten Warholm (pictured right) broke his own 400m hurdles world record after an incredible race (pictured left) at the Tokyo Olympics. (Getty Images)

Benjamin said the race even topped the 100m final at the 2009 world championships in Berlin, at which Usain Bolt set a new 100m record of 9.58sec.

"That was the best race in Olympic history," he said. "I don't even think Usain Bolt's 9.5 topped that. Three guys pretty much broke the world record. 45.9 man, 46.1 and lost.

"If you told me I'd run 46.1 and lose I'd probably beat you up and tell you to get out of my room!"

Benjamin added that Warholm was "amazing". "You can't be mad at that at all. As a competitor it hurts a lot, but that's just the nature of the sport."

As the Norwegian, with minimum upper body movement as he negotiated the early hurdles, hit the final 200 metres well ahead of the field, the question was whether he could keep his rhythm and pace.

Benjamin had not given up hope and pushed down the home straight, coming almost neck-and-neck on the 10th and last hurdle.

Warholm, teeth gritted and head flailing, looked like he could have tightened up and handed the American victory with 40 metres to run.

But from somewhere, the Norwegian two-time world champion dug deep and found just enough energy for an extra spurt that saw him surge through the line.

Eyes bulging at the world record time flashed up on the big screen, Warholm roared and spontaneously ripped open his shirt amid gasps from sparse pockets of fellow athletes and team officials at a stadium empty of spectators because of coronavirus rules.

There were national records for British Virgin Islands' Kyron McMaster in fourth, Turkey's Cuban-born 2017 world silver medallist Yasmani Copello in sixth and Estonian Rasmus Magi in seventh.

Qatar's 2019 world bronze medallist Abderrahman Samba, one of the four runners to have dipped under 47 seconds in his career, was fifth in a season's best of 47.12.

with agencies

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