You can never be sure what you’re going to get with Yohann Diniz which makes the 50km race walk at the European Race Walking Cup in Alytus, Lithuania on Sunday (19) which is streamed live here all the more exciting.
The world record-holder and reigning world champion either soars or sinks with very little middle ground in between. But one thing’s for sure: the Frenchman will set an electric pace and force rivals to squint at his disappearing back as early as the 10km checkpoint.
It’s around here that Diniz, 41, will either walk to solo glory or come to grief as he did in the last three Olympic Games.
He could probably afford to walk 10 minutes slower than the 3:32:33 world record set at the Zurich 2014 European Athletics Championships and still win - but that’s not his style.
Nominally looking at silver and bronze should be a strong Ukrainian quartet - even in the absence of reigning European champion Maryan Zakalnytskyy - spearheaded by defending champion Ivan Banzeruk who has personal best of 3:44:49 for the 50km race walk.
A solid Spanish team headed by Benjamin Sanchez should also be in contention while Italy with the dependable Marco De Luca on their team should challenge for team honours.
Now 49 Jesus Angel Garcia will be making his tenth European Race Walking Cup appearance on 19 May.
He won the inaugural 50km walk title in 1996 and is one of four athletes over 40 to register for the 50km in Alytus.
Diniz (41) pic.twitter.com/28tU9OmB0d
— European Athletics (@EuroAthletics) May 9, 2019
He is unlikely to win, but Jesus Angel Garcia deserves a medal just for being on the start line. The Spaniard is 50 in October and continues to record top times regardless of a sixth decade stamped on his passport. What keeps him going if bottled would net the patent holder a fortune.
Garcia, whose international career began in earnest at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona where he finished tenth, has already clocked 3:57:23 this year. Many half his age who would be delighted to get under 4:00:00 just once.
Berlin 2018 medallists and reigning champion Linke among the cast for the 20km
By contrast to the long race, the 20km race walk is wide open and there is much similarity of season’s bests among a field of 56.
Spain’s Alvaro Martin has yet to show the form that saw him triumph at last year’s European Championships following knee surgery in January. Silver medalist Diego Garcia and former world and European champion Miguel Angel Lopez will make Spain hard to beat for team honours.
Another prospective contender for individual gold could be Massimo Stano from Italy. He walked 2:35:03 for 35km in January and set an eye-catching 38:28.05 clocking over 10,000m in April to shatter his previous best by nearly two minutes.
Stano was just one second away from bronze in Berlin last year and the walker who pipped him at the European Championships lines up in Alytus as well.
Neutral athlete Vasiliy Mizinov recorded an unratified 1:18:32 in February but a 1:20:14 clocking for victory in Podebrady in April could be a more accurate barometer of his current form. Mizinov is second on the 2019 European list behind Sweden's Perseus Karlstrom who clocked 1:20:05 in February and is unbeaten in six races this year.
No stranger to success in Podebrady is Christoper Linke. The German had to settle for third this time, but the defending European Race Walking Cup champion is again in good shape although he was beaten at the German Championships by Nils Brembach.
Cheered to the echo will be Marius Ziukas, who at 33, has waited a long time for a share of the limelight. The Lithuanian walked a PB, 1:20:31 in February and then a significant negative split a month later to win in 1:22:29 at Dudince.
The best of the rest will find Great Britain’s Tom Bosworth and Callum Wilkinson in the lead group with individual and team honours in mind. France’s Gabriel Bordier and Kevin Campion and Italy’s Federico Tontodonati can also expect a top-10 finish.
Poland has never enjoyed a winner in the U20 10km - but that is surely about to change thanks to Lukasz Niedzialek.
His 40:23 at home in April was a PB by a massive margin and the 2016 U18 European champion has more than three minutes on his nearest rival in a field of 35.
Of the chasers, Anton Bildziuha and Pavel Oliohovik from Belarus will duel for a medal but so will rising stars Chris Snook from Great Britain, Italy’s Gabriele Gamba and Turkey’s Selman Ilhan - all of whom have personal bests under 44 minutes.