2019 IAAF World Championships

2019 IAAF World Championships Men's Hurdles Preview

2019 IAAF World Championships Men's Hurdles Preview

Regardless of whether you think Warholm, Benjamin, or Samba will take the title in Doha, one thing's for sure: the 400m hurdles WR is on borrowed time.

Sep 27, 2019 by Jennifer Zahn

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Our next installment of event previews for the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, focuses on the men's hurdles races. 

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Our next installment of event previews for the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, focuses on the men's hurdles races. 

This Could Be The Race Of The Year

Reigning Champion: Karsten Warholm 

2019 Diamond League Champion: Karsten Warholm

Event Schedule: Sep. 27 (Round 1); Sep. 28 (Semifinal); Sep. 30 (Final)


It's hard to overestimate the potential this field brings to Doha. 

Not one, not two, but THREE men have been nipping at the heels of Kevin Young's 46.78 world record every single time they stepped onto the track this season—an unbelievable leap from two years ago when the world-winning time was 48.35.

The man who ran that time? Karsten Warholm, who blessed us with the most iconic image from last year's world championships after shocking the field in London (and himself) with an unexpected victory. 

Since taking the world title in 2017, the 23-year-old Norwegian has fully transformed himself from ascendant decathlete-turned-400m hurdler to a contender for one of the greatest 400m hurdlers of all time, gradually knocking time off his PR until this year's flurry of progress—he ran the top five fastest times of his career this season, starting 2019 with a PR of 47.64. Now, he arrives in Doha with a 46.92 lifetime best (the second-fastest time ever) after winning the Zurich Diamond League, his fifth Diamond League title of 2019, in August.

Oh, and he's undefeated this year in his marquee event.

Now, if you haven't been keeping up with the global 400m hurdles scene (or skipped the second sentence of this analysis), you might think, "Well, just hand it to him."  

Not if former USC sensation and NCAA 400m hurdle record-holder (47.02) Rai Benjamin has anything to say about it. 

The 2019 U.S. champion improved his PR to 46.98 in that phenomenal Diamond League final against Warholm in Zurich, and won two Diamond League titles in his first professional campaign.

But wait—there's more!

Although he's been quieter this year than in 2018, Doha's hometown favorite, Abderrahman Samba, has also come a long way in the past couple of years. Samba gave the world record a scare at the 2018 Paris Diamond League meeting with what was formerly the second-fastest time in world history, 46.98.

But the 24-year-old hasn't raced in his premier event since May, and hasn't competed at all since July, leading many to question his ability to bounce back meaningfully against the red-hot Warholm and Benjamin. Even if he can find his way back to sub-47, it might not be enough for gold.

Regardless of who you like for the win, one thing's for certain: Young's world record is on borrowed time. 

No Favorites Here—The Men's 110m Hurdles Are Wide Open

Reigning Champion: Omar McLeod

2019 Diamond League Champion: Orlando Ortega

Event Schedule: Sep. 30 (Round 1); Oct. 2 (Semifinal); Oct. 2 (Final)


At the end of a 110m hurdles season defined by Grant Holloway vs. Daniel Roberts, it would be fitting to see the year's final edition of what will surely become a classic matchup end here in Doha with both of them on the podium.

Holloway vs. Roberts currently stands at 5-3 in Holloway's favor, and Holloway still maintains the better PR (12.98 to Roberts' 13-flat from their thrilling NCAA Championships final), but Roberts more recently won a major title at the USATF Outdoor Championships, where Holloway finished runner-up, and may have the momentum advantage. The former Gator hasn't enjoyed a bounce-back performance since Des Moines; he took sixth in 13.25 at the Paris Diamond League as Roberts won in 13.08.

After a turbulent past two years, it will be difficult for Omar McLeod, the defending champion and reigning Olympic champion, to keep up with those two. 

McLeod's journey from winning the world title to now was pockmarked by injuries, disappointing performances and multiple coaching changes—one in 2018 and another this year—before he recently moved to Germany to train with Rana Reider in a last-ditch effort to sharpen up ahead of Doha. 

That decision has so far proven to be fortuitous. Since then, McLeod won the Birmingham Diamond League (13.21) and went on to nearly go sub-13 at the ISATF Berlin meet (13.07). 

Sergey Shubenkov, the Russian / Authorized Neutral Athlete, would usually be at the top of the list of 110m hurdles threats, but struggled this season and has yet to get back to his sub-13 ways. The 28-year-old set his season's best, 13.12, all the way back in June, and followed that up with a disastrous showing in Paris, where he ran 13.88 for last place. 

Although Shubenkov did cobble together a string of decent performances in September—13.54, 13.33, 13.39—those kinds of times probably won't get him on the medal stand.

That could provide a great opportunity for this year's Diamond League champion, Spain's Orlando Ortega, to take advantage. The 2016 Olympic silver medalist owns a 12.94 PR and ran 13.05 this season in Lausanne, plus he's riding a wave of confidence from taking down the competition in Brussels. Ortega seems to know how to put himself in contention for medals when it counts, so Doha should be no different.