As he took in the achievement of becoming the first man to win three European 50km race walk titles, and setting an extraordinary world record of 3:32.33 in doing so, France’s Yohann Diniz was already savouring another glorious prospect – a glass of carefully chosen wine from the Crozes-Hermitage region.
This 36-year-old inhabitant of Reims – deep in the heart of Champagne territory – is a licensed oenologist, that is, an expert on wine and wine-making, so the bottle he has reserved for his Zurich celebration will doubtless be a vintage of top quality.
Diniz deserves to savour every drop after producing a vintage performance in Zurich, although, after the exuberant celebrations at the line with his tearful wife and two young daughters, he insisted he had not expected to earn the world record along with his European title.
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “It was a very crazy race. When I started I had no intention for the world record, I just followed Mikhail Ryzhov, as the Russian tactics are to put speed on and you have to follow.
“It was a big battle with Mikhail. At first I left him in the lead, but then I got back to him. I attacked again at 36km, and he could not follow me.
“I was not afraid at any time that I would lose, but I realised at around 40km that I could get the world record, and I wanted to make a good race and do more than just a win. I am very happy that Zurich, which has seen a lot of world records, now has another.”
A couple of hundred yards before the finishing line, Diniz stopped for four or five seconds to take hold of a Portuguese flag which he brandished along with the French tricolore he had taken from a team member a little earlier.
“My grandfather was Portuguese,” he explained. “Many Portuguese came over to live in France in the 1930s. So I have my roots in that country – and I often go there for training.”
Diniz is now member of an elite group who have set world records at the European Athletics Championships. His was the 35th in the history of the championships, and only the ninth male record set.
This, however, will be his final contribution to a competition where he has enjoyed the best moments of his career after Gothenburg 2006 and Barcelona 2010, as he plans to retire after the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Diniz comes from Reims, the same city as his team-mate Mehiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad, controversially disqualified last night for taking his shirt off in the finishing straight en route to securing a 3000m steeplechase victory that would have made him, like his near neighbour, a triple European champion.
“I offer this victory today to Mehiedine,” Diniz said. “I spoke to him last night in the team hotel. He should not have done what he did, but I think his disqualification was very harsh. But Mehiedine is a fighter, and I am sure he will have a medal from the 1500m final on Sunday.”