In a world where influencers make a living from posting photos of their daily cappuccino, star Norwegian hurdler Karsten Warholm insists the only attention he craves is from plucking golds from track’s very own Garden of Eden.
All sports, Warholm said Thursday, are in a battle to grasp the attention of a public besieged by the ever-increasing world of social media and a smorgasbord of other attractions.
“Even when I talk to my grandfather, he says everything was better before,” the 27-year-old Olympic 400m hurdles champion told journalists ahead of the world championships which start in Budapest on Saturday.
“In this new world everyone’s fighting for attention. It’s not just in sport.
“You can work as an influencer, what do you do? Someone posts photos of their cappuccino or whatever.
“I can also see that it’s more relatable for many young people to think ‘I’d rather drink cappuccino and take a picture of it than running 400m hurdles and getting a hell of lactic acid and hating my life twice a week!’.”
Warholm added: “Everbody’s fighting for this attention and I don’t think it was the same in the 1980s or 90s. You had newspapers that were actually paper, what was on TV was what you had to watch, you couldn’t choose like you can now.
“This is something all sports need to fight.
“In Norway I meet a lot of kids who know who I am and acknowledge what I do and find it inspiring and for me that’s enough.”
Streaming service Netflix is currently filming a series based on the men’s 100m, something Warholm said was good for track in general.
“It’s a great way of showing the sport, probably showing some of the behind the scenes and building some rivalries,” he said.
“Whenever I watch a TV series and you learn to know someone, you build this bond even though you don’t know them and that’s important for the following.
“Whatever they’re following, it will spread to other events. I only see positive things with it.”
But Warholm warned that he would not be egging up his own rivalries with world champion Alison Dos Santos and Rai Benjamin any time soon, saying the trio all respected the work each put in.
“I’m not willing to create an environment that’s toxic or hostile because people find that interesting because it doesn’t suit the person I want to be,” he said.
“But of course if someone wants to draw the sword first, my fighting spirit will be there and I’m not a fun guy to fight, but I will not draw first blood!”
Warholm has been in dominant form so far this season, saying he thrived on his nerves.
“If you’re not nervous you’re probably going to struggle to get the best version of yourself out. I like it and hate it at the same time, it’s a love-hate relationship,” he said.
But a new world champs means everything “starts at zero again and it’s going to be a very tough competition”.
“I want more. There’s some greed in it, I guess,” he said, adding that he dreams of running faster than the world record of 45.94sec he set when winning Olympic gold in Tokyo.
Warholm caught the public’s eye when he won gold at the London worlds in 2017. He repeated the feat in Doha two years later but failed to medal in Eugene last year after rushing his comeback from injury.
“Your first gold medal is not the easiest, but it’s the easiest in a mentality perspective because no one expects you to do it,” he said.
“After that point, things change, people want to ask you questions, people want to invite you to stuff, people want to do everything that drags you away from your performance.
“That’s when you need a good hand to hold and know a coach or somebody who’ll bring you back to earth and make you do the work.
“When you go into the Garden of Eden, you need to find your path and to be able to win the next gold medals,” he said in reference to the biblical paradise