This is Stuart Weir’s piece on the 400m hurdles from ROMA 2024, June 7-12, 2024. I missed several fine stories from the European Champs. I am publishing them now so that you, dear and attentive readers, have a full picture before PARIS 2024. The European stars will play a huge part in the Paris Olympics. Thanks, Stuart Weir, once again, for your excellent writing. 

On successive days at the Tokyo Olympics, the final event of the morning session was the 400m hurdles, with Karsten Warholm and Sydney McLaughlin breaking the world records. In Rome, we had hurdlers; 15 minutes with the two finals back to back. Warholm duly won in 46.98 from Alessandro Sibilio, who set an Italian record of 47.50, followed by Carl Bergstrom, who set a Swedish record 47.94.

In the women’s race, it was:

1 Femke Bol 52.49  CR

2 Louise Maraval 54.23 PR

3 Cathelijn Peeters 54.37

This is so much to admire about Karsten and Femke beyond their hurdling.  They’re both people who love their craft and their sport. They both take their media responsibilities seriously, always willing to chat after a race. I’m sure there are times when Femke is not smiling –  I don’t remember any.  I remember Karsten once at a press conference in London, telling us that he was from the Scottish part of Norway – he liked money. He had had this idea of having a racehorse join their training group but told us indignantly that his quote was unwilling to train the horse! Our sport needs more people like that.

The European Champs 400m hurdles medalists, photo by Getty Images for European Athletics

I remember speaking to Femke at the European team’s championship in Poland last year – a slightly below-elite event that many top athletes skip. I asked her why she had come. Her answer was simple – her coach thought she needed a race, and she loved running for the Netherlands. For all her fame and success, she seems to have lost none of her helpful enthusiasm for the sport. She said off her latest European gold medal: “I am pleased about the victory and Peeters third place. I knew she could achieve a great result, and she did. It’s never easy; you can never take anything for granted, so it’s important to stay focused on myself and not think about what’s happening around me. Even on a night like this, it becomes much harder. This atmosphere is amazing; it gives me chills. Rome has always had a special meaning: I love this track and this stadium. I worked hard for these championships, and I arrived here in good shape; I believe I can be even better at the Olympics. Tomorrow, we will also try to have a great race in the relay: today, my teammates did a fantastic job qualifying”. Her enthusiasm for the event, her country, and her joy in her teammate’s achievements come through loud and clear.

The medalists in the Women’s 400 meter hurdles, ROMA 2024, photo by Getty Images for European Athletics

Warholm commented: “Whenever I walk on the track, I want to accomplish my goals. But today, Sibilio also had a perfect race. Thanks to these championships, I have seen that the Italians have a great season, so I knew that I also had to fight very hard today. It was great to compete here, and I am glad that Tamberi jumped on the same day. The crowd was going crazy, and I enjoyed the atmosphere. And to my friend Sibilio, congratulations to you, too. Another championship record – it is great, and you cannot get enough of that. I am starting to get to the age when I am also reflecting a little bit on these years, which go by so fast. So, I just want to grab as many titles as possible because my first win in London in 2017 feels like yesterday. So I just want all the gold medals that I can have”.

Since he mentioned 2017, we have the chance to use that picture of him scaring Jonathan Edwards in London again.