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Yohann Diniz of France reacts after winning the Men’s 50km walk and setting a new world record during the European Athletics Championships on Aug 15 in Zurich. (AFP)
France’s Diniz sets new 50km walk world record Schippers gets sprint double at Euros

 ZURICH, Aug 15, (Agencies): Yohann Diniz of France smashed the world 50km walk record at the European Athletics Championships on Friday in a time of 3hr 32min 33sec. The previous record of 3:34:14 was set by Russia’s Denis Nizhegorodov in Cheboksary in May 2008. The ecstatic 36-year-old Diniz even had time to stop for a few seconds to collect a Portuguese flag from a fan and also waved a French flag as he crossed the finishing line for his third successive European title in Zurich. “I started off cautiously, with the rest of the pack and as usual I had pins and needles in my legs. I caught the Russians and asked myself if I had made a mistake because I did the same thing at Moscow (10th at 2013 world championships),” said Diniz, who won the fourth gold medal at the Championships for France.

 
“I felt very fluid with my technique and very relaxed and I could see that the Russians were not walking very consistently so I preferred to pull away a bit and get my times down to 4min 20secs a kilometer which I knew I had in my legs. “I knew I could go a lot faster and I worked on everything from the fifth kilometer to the 50th.” he added. In changeable weather conditions, Diniz had to cope with rain, sun and wind as he seized control of the race with 14km to go. He strode away to finish 3min 48sec in front of Slovakia’s Matej Toth with Russian Ivan Noskov claiming bronze, a further 1min 20sec back. Diniz’s previous best time and the French record dated back to 2009 at Dudince, Slovakia when he clocked 3:38:45. Dafne Schippers clinched her sprint double at the European Championships with a dominating victory over the 200 meters on Friday and still seeks gold with the Dutch relay team over the weekend for a triple. Schippers won in world leading 22.04 second running into a slight headwind and on a wet track, powering away once she hit the home straight on a wet Letzigrund track. Britain’s Jodie Williams took silver ahead of France’s Myriam Soumare.
 
Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad, stripped of his European Championship gold medal in the 3,000m steeplechase for whipping off his vest before the end of the race, on Friday denied he acted arrogantly.
Mekhissi-Benabbad, 29, who was on course for his third successive European title before his disqualification, also dismissed criticism that his action showed disrespect to his fellow-competitors.
“There was no arrogance,” the Frenchman wrote on his Facebook page. “Sorry, I was only thinking of celebrating my victory like a footballer. There was no arrogance towards my fellow-runners or the crowd.” The two-time World Championship bronze medallist initially received a yellow card warning but a protest lodged by the Spanish team was upheld, prompting an unsuccessful counter-protest by the French.
Yoann Kowal, Mekhissi-Benabbad’s French team-mate, was upgraded from silver to gold, with Krystian Zalewski of Poland promoted to second and Spain’s Angel Mullera to third. French athletics federation president Bernard Amsalem, described Mekhissi-Benabbad’s action as “unacceptable”, but criticised the way the matter was handled. “The action was unacceptable, you don’t take off your vest during a race, it isn’t done,” he said.
 
“At the same time, he took off his vest and it didn’t hurt anyone. He’s impulsive. But it should have stopped there. Unfortunately, the Spanish lodged a protest. I would never have lodged a protest, the Spanish acted badly.”
Mekhissi-Benabbad has a reputation as the bad boy of track and field, having pushed mascots after winning the European steeplechase final in Barcelona in 2010 and in Helsinki in 2012.
He was also given a suspended sentence by the French federation, fined 1,500 euros and ordered to perform 50 hours of community service after getting into a fist fight with fellow Frenchman Mehdi Baala after a Diamond League 1,500m race in Monaco in 2011.
Mekhissi-Benabbad was back on the track in Zurich on Friday, qualifying for Sunday’s final of the 1,500m after finishing third in his heat, and, ironically, Baala, now an advisor to the French team, was among the first to congratulate him at the end of the race.

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