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Eugene — Brazilian Alison dos Santos denied record-holder Karsten Warholm a third successive World Championship title on Tuesday, winning the 400m hurdles in a blazing-fast 46.29 sec.
While the hype heading into the final had largely focused on a showdown between Norwegian Olympic champion Warholm and his US rival Rai Benjamin, the Tokyo bronze medallist had the victory in hand down the final straight in a championship record.
Dos Santos exploded off the blocks and stretched his arms out wide as he glided through the finish with ease and held his hand to his ear, urging on cheers from the crowd after the remarkable upset.
“The energy of the crowd was amazing. I felt their love, people hugging me,” he said. “When you win, you start being everyone’s favourite. That’s pretty awesome to win the world title on this track.”
Benjamin had a fighting chance until the ninth hurdle, when he slowed dramatically before finishing more than half a second slower for his second consecutive world silver.
He told reporters that he drew strength from the home crowd at Hayward Field to keep himself on the podium.
“I am grateful for silver. I got it done. I chopped a few hurdles and my race plan went out the window, but when I hear ‘USA! USA!’, I ran as fast as I could to keep my second place,” he said.
Warholm had twice broken the world record in 2021 but walked into Eugene, Oregon, with a question mark over his head after suffering a hamstring tear in June, having not completed a race in 10 months.
He hyped himself before stepping into the blocks, deploying his trademark smack to the face, and appeared to be still in contention for the podium until after the final turn, but he struggled down the final metres of the race to finish seventh.
“It was a very tough race. I had an injury but to me it’s always your fight and giving your all and leaving it all on the track,” he told reporters, adding that he had “huge respect” for the rest of the field.
“I hope looking back I’ll feel proud of that even though I prefer to take a medal. That is what I work for and gives me the satisfaction.”
American Trevor Bassitt just barely edged Wilfried Happio for the bronze in his first outdoor championships, catching up to the Frenchman in the final metres before sticking his head across the finish line at the exact right moment to secure a personal best (PB) time of 47.39 sec.
Benjamin tackled his compatriot in a scene of utter joy as the result was shown on the big screen.
“To come out here, run [a] PB on the biggest stage and get a bronze, it’s all I could ask for,” said Bassitt.
“You can’t do any better than your best and I think a medal is an incredible blessing. It comes down to execution.”
Dos Santos told reporters this week that he had rededicated himself to fine-tuning his craft after finishing third in Tokyo, an effort that clearly paid off.
He has collected four Diamond League wins so far in 2022 and his time on Tuesday was the fastest of the year.
“I didn’t care about the time because this is the first time I win a world title. I think I can run faster than it,” he told reporters.
“I don’t think you will have a perfect race. I’ll always look for ways to improve.”
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.