ZURICH – Yohann Diniz of France smashed the world 50-km walk record at the European Athletics Championships on Friday in a time of 3 hours, 32 minutes, 33 seconds.
The previous record of 3:34:14 was set by Russia’s Denis Nizhegorodov in Cheboksary in May 2008.
The ecstatic 36-year-old Diniz even had time to stop for a few seconds to collect a Portuguese flag from a fan and also waved a French flag as he crossed the finishing line for his third successive European title in Zurich.
“I started off cautiously, with the rest of the pack and as usual I had pins and needles in my legs. I caught the Russians and asked myself if I had made a mistake because I did the same thing at Moscow (10th at 2013 world championships),” said Diniz, who won the fourth gold medal at the Championships for France.
“I felt very fluid with my technique and very relaxed and I could see that the Russians were not walking very consistently so I preferred to pull away a bit and get my times down to 4 minutes, 20 seconds a kilometer which I knew I had in my legs.
“I knew I could go a lot faster and I worked on everything from the fifth km to the 50th,” he added.
In changeable weather conditions, Diniz had to cope with rain, sun and wind as he seized control of the race with 14 km to go.
He strode away to finish 3min 48sec in front of Slovakia’s Matej Toth with Russian Ivan Noskov claiming bronze, a further 1min 20sec back.
Diniz’s previous best time and the French record dated back to 2009 at Dudince, Slovakia when he clocked 3:38:45.