28 October, 2019

Five Of The Best: 400m Hurdles

  • © IAAF Diamond League

Sydney McLaughlin and Karsten Warholm won their first career Diamond Trophies this year, but how do they compare to the Diamond League stars of yesteryear? We have compiled the five fastest 400m Hurdles times in ten years of Diamond League history.

The answer, of course, is that both McLaughlin and Warholm compare very well indeed to their predecessors on the podiums of the Diamond League. 2019 was a record-breaking year for the 400m Hurdles and both this season's champions made it into the top five Diamond League times with their trophy-winning performances in Zurich. 

McLaughlin's 52.85 was the third-fastest time in Diamond League history, and only the third sub-53 performance in ten years of the competition. It nudged her ahead of two-time title winner Zuzana Hejnova, who clocked 53.07 in London on the way to her first Diamond Trophy in 2013. 

Slightly above McLaughlin in the all-time rankings is Lashinda Demus. Despite having never won the Trophy outright, the American star appears twice in the top five Diamond League times thanks to a blistering start to the series' inaugural season in 2010. After clocking 53.03 on home soil in Eugene, the soon-to-be-crowned 2011 world champion set an early Diamond League record of 52.82 in Rome. 

Demus was denied the first ever 400m Hurdles Diamond Trophy by Jamaica's Kaliese Spencer, who dominated the discipline for five years with four titles between 2010 and 2014. Spencer also still holds the Diamond League record, thanks to a blistering 52.79 in London on the way to her second title in 2011.

All that must seem like ancient history to fans of the men's 400m hurdles, where all of the five fastest Diamond League times have been posted in the last 18 months. 

Abderrahman Samba broke the Diamond League record no less than four times in the course of 2018, yet only one of those performances, his 46.98 in Paris, still makes the top five after yet another record-obliterating season.

In Samba and Karsten Warholm, the discipline already had two bona fide superheroes before young pretender Rai Benjamin arrived on the scene this season. The emergence of a new kid on the block mixed things up even more, and Benjamin immediately nabbed himself a spot in the all-time top five Diamond League performances when he picked up his first win on the circuit with 47.16 in Stanford earlier this year. 

Warholm went one better in London, clocking 47.12 to re-establish himself as the favourite for both the Diamond Trophy and world championship gold later in the season, and when the two men faced each other in the Diamond League Final in Zurich, the watching world braced itself for a showdown of epic proportions. 

In any normal year, the 46.98 that Benjamin ran at the Letzigrund Stadium would have been a joint Diamond League record and a time more than quick enough to secure the Diamond Trophy. Yet 2019 was not a normal year and Warholm blew his rival out of the water with a jaw-dropping 46.92 to be crowned Diamond League champion for the first time in his explosive career. 

It was not only a new Diamond League record, but also a new European record and the second fastest performance of all time, leaving Warholm just .14 of a second off Kevin Young's world record. 

Let's just say it is probably worth keeping an eye on the 400m hurdles in 2020.