French veteran is in a class of his own at World Champs while Ines Henriques sets world record in the women’s race
If there is a prize at these championships for demonstrating total superiority, it would surely go to Yohann Diniz. The Frenchman won the 50km race walk title on Sunday morning by more than eight minutes in a championship record and the second-best time in history.
His 3:33:12 in front of ever-growing crowds on The Mall just outside Buckingham Palace saw him finish ahead of Japanese duo Hirooki Arai and Kai Kobayashi, who clocked 3:41:17 and 3:41:19 respectively.
Close behind, Igor Glavan of Ukraine was fourth with another Japanese walker, Satoshi Maruo, fifth.
Diniz is a three-time European champion but has never won a global title. Aged 39 and in the twilight of his career, he has finally managed to do it in London – in some style as well – and his 10km splits en route were an incredible 44:28, 42:50, 42:33, 41:40 and 41:41.
“I started having doubts after 20km,” said Diniz, “but in training we have been doing lots of changes of rhythms, so I just kept going. I got a card around 20km and I thought, ‘I just must not mess this up’. I just concentrated completely on my technique.”
Despite almost being 40, Diniz says he has no immediate plans to retire and his ambition is to win the elusive Olympic gold in Tokyo in three years’ time, although there he will face, among others, the fast-improving Japanese as they go for gold on home soil.
Diniz, who suffered injury and illness problems earlier in the year, continued: “A lot of training has gone into this – cycling, swimming – everything for this 50km walk. Last night I kept away from watching the TV (athletics) because I did not want to get too excited. I went to bed at 9pm because I knew it was going to be my day today.”
Ireland’s Rob Heffernan, the 2013 world champion, was eighth in 3:44:40, but there was disappointment for Britain’s only representative, Dominic King, as he was disqualified at the halfway stage.
King said: “Today I was fit enough but technique is always holding me back, unfortunately,” said King. “My hips sometimes tighten up which causes my body to be in the wrong position to straighten my legs.”
He added: “It’s a problem I’ve had for many years and sometimes I’ve tried to correct but now I’ll have to go back to the drawing board to see what I can do to try to get the most out of myself. But I also have to remain positive. I did well to get here with not being a funded athlete and working full time.
“I’ve been to two Olympics and now a World Championships and also a Commonwealth Games. So I’m proud of what I’ve done but I have ambitions to do better.”
The women’s 50km was only added to the programme on the eve of the championships and featured a very small field – with seven starters and four finishers – but Ines Henriques of Portugal set a world record of 4:05:56 to win gold, not to mention a $60,000 winner’s prize and a $100,000 world record bonus.
On women racing over 50km for the first time at the championships, Diniz said: “This is a very good move and I encouraged the ladies today. There was a world record and it was a good first time.
“For the next edition we need more women on the start line, although I’m sure more countries will step up. It’s a little like the marathon – it started a bit slow (when becoming a championship event for women) – but it’s very good for race walking.”
» Check out our dedicated online section here for more of the London 2017 latest and see the August 17 edition of AW magazine for full coverage