2020 Tokyo Olympics: Sneaker Controversy Ignites After Hurdler Wins Gold Against Rival

by Matthew Wilson

We’ve heard of sore losers, but what about sore winners. Norway track and field star Karsten Warholm took home the gold at the Olympics. But all he could talk about was his rival’s sneakers. Warholm didn’t like Team USA’s Rai Benjamin’s kicks. And he wasn’t afraid to voice his opinion.

Benjamin ultimately took the silver medal in a highly competitive 400m hurdle. But, according to the New York Post, Warholm called out Benjamin for his shoes. “[He] had those things in his shoes, which I hate,” Warholm said before accusing Benjamin of running on air.

For the event, Benjamin repped a pair of Nike’s Air Zoom Victory and Dragonfly models. Those shoes included a pair of Pebax foam as a “super spike” in its running shoes. Several athletes including Mo Farah, Letesenbet Giday, Joshua Cheptegei and Sifan Hassan wore the shoes during competitions. They also happened to break records in the process.

“I don’t see why you should put anything beneath a sprinting shoe,” Warholm said. “In middle distance I can understand it because of the cushioning. If you want cushioning, you can put a mattress there. But if you put a trampoline I think it’s bulls–t, and I think it takes credibility away from our sport.”

But let he without spike cast the first stone. Warholm himself also wore spikes on his shoes as well. He repped Puma and Mercedes F1 to create a shoe with a carbon plate and yes, a spike. But the Norway athlete insisted that it was different in his case.

“Yes, we have the carbon plate,” Warholm said. “But we have tried to make it as thin as possible. Because that is the way I would like to do it. Of course, technology will always be there. But I also want to keep it down to a level where we can compare results because that is important.”

Olympics Race For the History Books

Could both Warholm’s and Benjamin’s shoes be responsible for what many are calling the best race in Olympics History? Both competitors happened to break the world record. Warholm himself took home the victory in the race. He happened to run a blistering 45.94 during Monday’s race.

Even Benjamin himself believes it was a race for the history books.

“I’ve always said that the perfect race doesn’t exist. But this is the closest I think I’ve come to a perfect race,” Benjamin said. As far as their speed, Benjamin believes the field itself played more of a role than the shoes. “It’s a very good track, It’s soft. It has a lot of give. It’s a phenomenal track. People say it’s the track, the shoes, and the conditions were really good.”

So should racers have spikes on their shoes? That’s a matter that’s up for debate.