New World Record Not Enough as America’s Benjamin Finishes Second in 400 Hurdles: Best Olympic Race Ever?

American Rai Benjamin took second in the 400 meter hurdles Monday at the Tokyo Olympics with a time of 46.17 behind Norway’s Karsten Warholm, who ran 45.94. Both men smashed the old world record, while third-place finisher Alison dos Santos also became the third-fastest man ever in the discipline.

Warholm was the favorite on most betting lines heading into the final, but it took a Herculean effort in what may be the greatest race ever run.

As of a couple months ago, the 400 m hurdles world record was 46.78, a mark set by American Kevin Young in 1992. 

Benjamin came eerily close to Young’s record in a solo push at the USA’ Olympic Trials in Oregon near the end of June, running 46.83 and setting a world lead in the event ahead of his nemesis, Warholm.

It would take the 25-year-old Norwegian champion less than a week to respond; Warholm blazed a new world record in his home country, dipping across the line in 46.70 seconds and cementing himself as the greatest performer ever in the event.

Norally, the 100m dash and 4x400m relays steal the headlines as anticipation for the Olympics builds, but lots of the attention was diverted to the impending showdown between Benjamin and Warholm. A world record was thought to be in the cards, and Warholm was the favorite, having defeated Benjamin at the most recent World Championships— but nobody could have predicted what was actually about to happen.

Both of the top 400 hurdlers easily breezed through the preliminary round and matched up in the semifinal, though they did not give it their all, opting to rest up for the final.

Benjamin’s coach hinted after the semis that there was more to come in the final, and he thought that his young stud was in shape for something special.

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New World Record Not Enough

The race got underway at 12:20 p.m. local time and showed a familiar picture with Warholm getting out of the blocks extremely hard, though Benjamin made a tactical adjustment and covered his moves for the first 120 meters.

Warholm put a bit of separation between himself and his American challenger on the back stretch and through the back turn, though Benjamin responded and closed a bit of ground approaching the final 50 meters— it was there that his legs tightened up and he could not continue to close the last couple of meters in distance between him and Warholm, and the Norwegian sped across the line with for a narrow victory.

After finishing the race, Warholm glanced at the clock and let out a cry of jubilation for what he had just done— he had beaten his own world record by .76 seconds. It took 29 years for the former World record to be broken by less than .1, and a month later, the new mark was almost a second quicker.

Benjamin’s second-place finish was .61 under Young’s former record, and dos Santos in third was .06 ahead of the mark.

Wrapping Things Up

Without being a prisoner of the moment, it is not an overstatement to say that this could be the greatest race in Olympic history; this was Usain Bolt’s 9.63; this was Florence Grifftih-Joyner’s 21.34; this was two men obliterating the world record in a manner that nobody thought was possible for decades, even centuries.

The Olympic games continue in Tokyo and Online Bets are being taken by different sportsbooks, but any betting man or woman would say that there is not going to be another race that replicates the magic of the 400 hurdles.

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