Diniz delivers world record to defend walk gold
Yohann Diniz walked his way into history here today as he set a world record of 3:32.33 in becoming the first man to win three European Athletics Championships 50km race walk golds – something he has done with successive victories.
The 36-year-old Frenchman made his decisive move between the 36th and 38th kilometres lap of the looped course on the bank of the River Limmat, finally breaking clear of the man with whom he had exchanged the lead over the first half of the race, Mikhail Ryzhov of Russia.
Diniz had time to collect two flags and still comfortably broke the six-year-old world record of 3:34.14 set by Russia’s Denis Nizhegorodov.
Ryzhov, world silver medallist in Moscow last year behind Ireland’s Robert Heffernan – who dropped out here shortly before the 40km mark – eventually paid for his boldness as he slipped out of the medal places, with Slovakia’s Matej Toth coming through for silver in 3:36.21 and Ivan Noskov of Russia edging past his shattered compatriot in the penultimate 2km lap to take bronze in 3:37.41.
Russia’s world silver medallist of last year, held a six second lead at 30km, but the defending champion was not to be denied.
Diniz thus became member of an elite club of those who have set world records at the Championships down the years. His was the 35th world record at the European Athletics Championships, and only the ninth set by a man.
Back in the Letzigrund Stadium, the enfant terrible of French athletics Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad was back on the track for the men’s 1500m semifinals just a few hours after his controversial victory-cum-disqualification in the steeplechase final.
Starting with a yellow card warning against his name due to last night’s home-straight antics, Mekhissi-Benabbad nevertheless made it into Sunday’s final from a 16-man field with a late run into third place.
Norway’s defending champion Henrik Ingebrigtsen won that heat in a swift 3:39.32 but his younger brother Filip was run out of the second semi, won by the fast-finishing Briton, Chris O’Hare, in an even quicker 3:39.24.
Earlier, the weather conditions made life difficult for some athletes in the field event qualifiers, although not Christina Schwanitz who wasted little time in securing her place in Sunday’s shot final, following the example of her male teammate David Storl on Monday.
Europe’s number one stepped up to the damp circle at 10:05 this morning and landed her first throw at 19.35m, nearly 2m beyond the required distance and the second longest ever in a European Athletics Championships qualifier. Russia’s Yevgeniya Kolodko remains her most likely challenger.
“Anything you can do,” was the mantra for another German thrower, Shanice Craft, as she shrugged off the pouring rain to fling her first discus attempt out beyond the automatic distance to 61.88.
She’ll be joined in tomorrow’s final by two German teammates, but the overwhelming favourite remains Sandra Perkovic of Croatia. The world and Olympic champion was the best of this morning’s qualifiers, taking one throw to reach 63.93.
However, there was disappointing news from Croatia’s other great athlete, as Blanka Vlasic did not appear for the women’s high jump, her bid to regain the European title foiled by a knee problem.
Europe’s leading jumper Anna Chicherova is also missing through injury leaving fellow Russian Mariya Kuchina as one of the favourites for gold. The world indoor champion qualified safely along with other contenders Ruth Beitia of Spain, Vlasic’s compatriot Ana Simic and Polish record holder Justyna Kasprzycka.
All the main contenders made it through to the women’s 3000m steeplechase final, including European leaders Charlotta Fougberg of Sweden and Finland’s Sandra Eriksson.
A long jump personal best of 6.30m moved Germany’s Carolin Schäfer into first place in the heptathlon with 4788 points, 32 ahead of overnight leader Nafissatou Thiam of Belgium with Dutchwoman Nadine Broersen 48 points back in third.