The Rolling Stones helped Frenchman Yohann Diniz to a World 50,000m Race Walk track record this morning in Reims, France.**
The double European champion’s preparation for a tilt at countryman Thierry Toutain’s 11-year-old mark was so complete it even included a DJ on his home-town track who blasted out Diniz’s chosen playlist over speakers from 40,000m to help him over the line.
Apart from Mick, Keith and co, Iggy Pop and French rock band Noir Désir also inspired the 4000-plus spectators who cheered their hero from first to last and a new 3:35:27.20 record.
It got slightly better for Diniz when a screen at one end of the Georges Hébert stadium turned facing spectators only displayed a hospital-style graph that tracked the walker’s progress against Toutain’s effort.
Fans could see how Diniz was ahead of schedule at 35,000m by 40 seconds and upped the decibels – although the man himself had to be content with stopwatch and three top pacemakers.
Johan Augeron of France, IAAF World Championship bronze medallist Hatem Ghoula from Tunisia, as well as Grzegorz Sudol from Poland – second to Diniz at the European Championships last year in Barcelona – kept the Frenchman on cruise control until 35,000m.
Ghoula was meant to have gone the whole distance, but couldn’t maintain the relentless pace that saw the leader a relatively modest 1:40mins ahead of schedule at 40,000m only to light the afterburners and finish more than five minutes up on Toutain’s 3:40:57.9.
By then the early morning 8.30am start in a chilly four degrees had risen to a perfect 15 celsius – and brought the best weather of the week to the northern town.
The necessary IAAF judges were in place, so subject to the normal ratification protocols, the record stays in France – and Diniz was so fresh after his effort, he was serving champagne to helpers and officials 30 minutes after he crossed the line.
“The time between Barcelona and the World Championships is more than a year,” said Diniz. “So I needed a 50k in between – and this was the perfect opportunity.”
“The biggest inspiration for me was not just the music – but the spectators who gave so much support.”
“Barriers were moved in so they could be even closer – and the atmosphere was just mad.”
“It’s true that after all the work done on preparation, I felt a little pressure to give my best to make it all worthwhile.”
Diniz, who turned 33 on New Year’s Day, reckoned it was easy enough to persuade Sudol and Ghoula to help him out (‘they’re good friends’) – but will now take two weeks complete rest to analyse his performance that includes time spent in Albuquerque, New Mexico at a training camp.
“We also learned things about dietary needs while there, and I think that will help for preparation for Daegu (2011 IAAF World Championships),” he added.
The 125 laps of the Reims track also bettered Diniz’s French road record 3:38:45 from Dudince 2009, and ended up being the second fastest ever for the distance. Only the 3:34:14 by Russia’s Denis Nizhegorodov on the road in Cheboksary at 2008 IAAF Race Walking World Cup is faster.
Needless to say, it smashed out of sight his only previous track mark from 2004 of 3:52:11.0, and made the hard graft of setting up the attempt well worth the effort.
Diniz added: “We didn’t have a huge budget, but I got help from Adidas, my own athletic club here and the town of Reims.
“I’m so happy to have achieved the record here of all places.”
Paul Warburton for the IAAF
** World record depending upon the usual official ratification procedure