Some were calling this the greatest track and field race in history afterwards, and watching this 45.94sec symphony of destruction up close it was impossible to disagree.
Over 400m, the Norwegian world champion and world record holder, Karsten Warholm, scrapped it out with his great American rival Rai Benjamin. And there was barely a stride between them as they sprinted like cheetahs and jumped like stags over 10 imposing hurdles. But, with the legs and lungs protesting, Warholm just had a little more as they pushed each other to the line.
As Warholm crossed the line, he looked at the clock and screamed. He had obliterated his old 400m hurdles world record of 46.70 by a staggering 0.76. No wonder he tore his track vest open like Superman afterwards.
Benjamin also smashed the old world record running 46.17, while the 21-year-old Alison dos Santos ran 46.72.
“In the last 20 metres I couldn’t feel my legs,” said Warholm. “I just ran for my life.”
“I was coming, I just ran out of space,” replied Benjamin. “It was a phenomenal race. We tore the old record to pieces. It was like child’s play. If you would have told me that I was going to run 46.1 and lose, I would probably beat you up and tell you to get out of my room.
“This is the greatest race ever in Olympic history. It’s undeniable.”
Until a month ago Kevin Young’s old world record of 46.78, set at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, had stood tall and imposing for 29 years. Now someone has gone under 46 seconds for 400m while also jumping hurdles.
It is said that this is the fastest track ever with bounce-back properties which work really well with the new wave of super spikes. Afterwards Kyron McMaster, who was fourth in 47.08s, described the experience as like “running on air”. The heat too was a factor.
But as Benjamin pointed out afterwards, this generation is also hugely special. “I don’t care who you are,” he said. “Could be Kevin Young, Edwin Moses, respect to those guys, but they cannot run what we just ran just now.”
And the crazy thing is, they might not be finished yet. “I can’t believe the time, it’s so fast” said Warholm. “A lot of the time I am asked about the perfect race. I said it didn’t exist but this is the closest I’ve ever come.”
Meanwhile Benjamin summed up nicely the mutual respect between the pair. “The Kid’s amazing, man, you can’t be mad at that at all,” he said.
“As a competitor it hurts. I couldn’t sleep last night, there were 10 million emotions in the call room. We’re cool with each other but we weren’t talking.
“But he freaking did it, man.”