Karsten Warholm didn’t intend for it, but his viral reaction to winning 400m hurdles gold at the world championships became Norwegian expressionist art reminiscent of “The Scream.”
Warholm, a 21-year-old from the harbor town of Ulsteinvik, was the surprise champion on a chilly, rainy Wednesday evening at the 2012 Olympic Stadium in London.
“For me, this is just a good Norwegian summer, actually, so there was no worries,” he said.
Warholm prevailed in the slowest winning time in world championships history — 48.35 seconds — by leading essentially from the gun and holding off the likes of Olympic champion Kerron Clement.
But that’s not what the race will be remembered for. Instead, it will be Warholm’s reaction to seeing his name atop the scoreboard moments afterward.
The first Norwegian man to win a world championships race popped his eyes and clawed his wet fingers over the sides of his mouth. The image conjured an angry Viking and Edvard Munch‘s aforementioned famous painting.
“It’s like instinct,” Warholm said. “It just happened. When I get over the finish line first, I truly couldn’t believe it. I was so tired, but still, so happy.”
On his victory lap, Warholm donned a Viking helmet with horns and the Dannebrogelva, similar to Subway’s famous Chicago Bulls headgear from the 1990s. He collapsed into a sand pit and asked a Reuters photographer to pinch him. He told an interviewer that his favorite emoji was, “Uh, I don’t know, you know, the smiley poop?”
“I’m young,” he said later in a press conference, still wearing the flag and the helmet. “I’m stupid.”
Warholm received congratulations from the country’s biggest stars in Alpine skiing and cross-country skiing, as well as a letter from King Harald V.
Warholm was a junior decathlete up to two years ago. He lowered the Norwegian 400m hurdles record four times last year, including in Rio, where he made the semifinals. Warholm entered Wednesday’s final ranked sixth in the world in 2017.
“My coach, he stopped drinking Coca-Cola two years ago,” Warholm said, adding that his coach’s nickname was “Dr. Sprint” because of his genius. “We had a bet. So he needs to drink Coke today. I can’t wait. I’m just going to sit at the other end of the table and enjoy it and probably just think about the race and watch the race.”
Asked what’s next, Warholm provided another off-the-wall reaction.
“Hopefully more, but you never know,” he said. “Tomorrow, I can get run over by the bus and I can’t compete anymore. I just need to enjoy this.”
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