Yohann Diniz at the 2015 13th Memorial Mario Albisetti in Lugano (© Lorenzo Sampaolo)
Just a few hours after losing the 20km race walk world record he set just a week ago, although both marks are subject to ratification, Yohann Diniz attempted to claim it back at the famous Lugano race walking meeting – the 13th Memorial Mario Albisetti – but came up just short when clocking 1:17:24 on Sunday (15).
In what was effectively a time trial, Diniz quickly took the lead and was never headed but came up 48 seconds short of the time clocked by Japan's Yusuke Suzuki on home soil at the Asian Race Walking Championships in his home town of Nomi earlier on Sunday.
He was also just adrift of his own pending French record, and former world record, of 1:17:02 set in Arles exactly a week ago, although it was the sixth-fastest performance under record-ratifiable conditions.
Diniz immediately set a fast pace, clocking 7:34 for the first of the 10 two-kilometre laps and kept a regular rhythm for each split: 7:39 on the second lap, 7:43 on the third lap and 7:43 on the fourth lap.
The 37-year-old went through the 10km mark in 38:20, 20 seconds inside the former pace he set in Arles seven days ago although 15 seconds slower than Suzuki's split in Nomi.
He went through 14km in 53:54 and 16km in 1:00:43, and was still on course to regain the world record but slowed slightly in the final four kilometres to just miss out on the record. But he managed to hold on to cross the finish-line in 1:17:24.
“I thought I would be able to improve my record but I needed stronger competition to walk faster. I felt the wind along the course. However, I am happy that I broke my Lugano best time set in 2012,” said Diniz.
“Last year I won the European 50km title with the world record in Zurich so Switzerland is my lucky place. I am happy that I recovered well after last week’s race in Arles. I will try the double in the 20 and 50km in both Beijing and Rio,” he added.
Lebogang Shange came through to take a slightly surprising second place in an a South African record of 1:21:50, taking 31 seconds off Chris Britz’s 19-year-old mark and an improvement by more than two minutes on his previous best.
In an entertaining race for the lower places on the podium, with less than a minute covering places two to five, Brazil's Caio Bonfim took third in 1:22:00.
Anzeka Drahotova almost added to the record tally when winning the women’s 20km race in 1:28:52, her fourth appearance at the race.
Still a teenager although in her first year in the senior ranks, the world junior champion was just 44 seconds outside her own national record set when taking the bronze medal at the European Championships in Zurich last summer.
Drahotova started quickly forging a gap between herself and her rivals with a burst of acceleration on the fourth lap and went through halfway in 44:31, holding a lead of 25 seconds over Polish record-holder Agniewska Dygacz.
Drahotova slightly slowed down after 16km but she had such a huge advantage that she maintained her place at the front until the line with little difficulty.
Behind the Czech race walker, the experienced Portuguese international Vera Santos passed the tiring Dygacz late in the race and took second in 1:30:23, with Dygacz 15 seconds further back in third place, improving by one position on her 2014 finish in Lugano.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF