LONDON (Reuters) – Yohann Diniz produced an astonishing solo tour de force to become the oldest man ever to become a world athletics champion at the age of 39 as he won the 50 kilometer walk title on Sunday.
The French world record holder, one of the great figures of race walking, produced the second fastest walk in history, 3 hours 33 minutes 12 seconds — a time only he has bettered — with one of the performances of the entire World Championships.
Diniz was so dominant en route to his long-awaited first global title that he lapped nearly all the 43-strong field over the 2km looped circuit on The Mall, finishing less than a minute adrift of his three-year-old world record of 3:32:33.
He was even able to take a swift comfort break when leading in the first 15 minutes before rejoining the race and destroying his opponents over the 25 laps between Admiralty Arch and Buckingham Palace.
A great showman, father of two Diniz was even able to smile and wave to the crowds lining the course well before the finish as he landed a third gold of the championships for France.
He blew kisses towards Buckingham Palace on the last circuit, turning it into a glorified lap of honor, and approached the line while making a scarf out of a tricolor he had grabbed from the crowd before then hoisting it aloft to celebrate his new championship record.
He had only one moment of concern when he received a red card for an infringement at about the 20km mark. “I started having doubts but in training, we have been doing lots of changes of rhythms, so I just kept going.
“I got a card too and I thought ‘I just must not mess this up.’ I just concentrated completely on my technique.
“Last night I kept away from watching the athletics on TV because I did not want to get too excited. I went to bed at nine because I knew it was going to be my day!”