Yohann Diniz in the 50km race walk at the IAAF World Championships London 2017 (© Getty Images)
Finally at the sixth attempt, Yohann Diniz became world champion on the same course that left him leaning on a tree in despair five years ago at the 2012 Olympics.
This time the Frenchman needed no support as he led from gun to tape to lap nearly the entire field, and almost certainly bringing an illustrious career to a close.
As he basked in the Sunday sunshine, Diniz also became the oldest ever winner of the event; his 40th birthday awaits him on the first day of 2018. But he showed no signs of the fatigue and failure that ruined all previous attempts.
In fact, this was reminiscent of his world record at the 2014 European Championships where he also dominated with aplomb.
However, that race In Zurich brought cool, damp conditions. This time, the London temperature at the end was closer to 23C by the time Diniz broke the line for a championship record and the second-fastest time in history.
He might have been closer to that world mark had he not high-fived supporters over the last kilometre that served as a virtual lap of glory.
He spent as much time first making a scarf out of the tricolour thrown at him as anything else, before brandishing it above his head as he strolled over the winning line.
Diniz’s massive margin of victory over Japan’s Harooki Arai was as near as makes no difference an entire circuit of The Mall course – again, the biggest time gap in World Championships history.
The bronze went to Arai’s teammate Kai Kobayashi after the pair broke away from the rest shortly after 36 kilometres and helped each other to medals.
As expected, Diniz made a customary bid for glory shortly after the start. But unlike previous big races when the Frenchman shot to the front, the call of nature necessitating a quick stop brought him back to a large group of 20 plus, or at least Horacio Nava from Mexico for company to five kilometres in 22:46.
The lone British race walker, Dominic King, was also prominent in front of a fairly healthy gathering of home fans.
Diniz quickly decided two was a crowd and struck out alone to make 10 kilometres in 44:28, only 11 seconds slower than his ill-fated attempt at last year’s Olympics.
He maintained the charge over the next five kilometres to record 1:06:04 – a time very close to his Rio split with the following group of nine 1:30 in arrears.
The world record-holder even had time for an encouraging pat on the shoulder for USA’s Susan Randall as he passed her on the women’s inaugural 50km race walk, and undaunted by his collapse in Brazil, hit 20 kilometres in 1:27:18 – 23 seconds quicker than Rio.
The seven chasers close to three minutes back included Evan Dunfee and Arai who locked shoulders during a dramatic last few minutes in the Olympic race.
All of them were left staring hard at the fast-disappearing Diniz who was three minutes ahead at 30 kilometres, 2:09:58, a time good enough for a 1986 medal in the now defunct Commonwealth Games 30km.
On the other side of the road – and that’s because the Frenchman was by now going in one direction on the looped course, his pursuers going in the other – the chasing pack was starting to come apart.
Arai and Kobayashi made a telling bid and Dunfee was unable to respond to trail the pair by 27 seconds at 40 kilometres, while surprise showing Claudio Villanueva from Ecuador was six seconds behind the Canadian.
The fast-finishing Igor Glavin was as low as 13th by halfway, but the Ukrainian timed his effort well to pass all but the first three and claim fourth.
Japan’s great day was extended to Satoshi Maruo, who not only got welcomed by his be-medalled friends, but claimed fifth and a personal best.
The unsung hero of the day turned out to be Máté Helebrand. The Hungarian’s sixth place was a national record that knocked all but an eye-opening 10 minutes off his previous best.
In what turned out to be an unusually busy day for the judges, King was disqualified at 25km, and other high hopes Håvard Haukenes and Andres Chocho met the same fate along with six others.
Paul Warburton for the IAAF