Diessl burns with a greater desire after breakthrough U20 gold in Jerusalem

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  • Diessl burns with a greater desire after breakthrough U20 gold in Jerusalem

Entering any championship as the favourite brings its own unique pressures. 

And doing so from a smaller nation where the hopes are piled on your single set of shoulders, it can further increase expectation.  

But Enzo Diessl has shown himself to be an athlete more than capable of overcoming any type of barrier, be they physical or mental. The Austrian won the 110m hurdles at the recent European Athletics U20 Championship in Jerusalem, producing his best form when the occasion demanded it. 

“Delivering your best at a championship is always a challenge,” he said. “And with the pressure that I had, I felt very proud that I could give my best at the finals and really run my time.” 

Diessl produced a near flawless performance, winning his heat and semifinal, before winning the final in 13.12 (+1.2m/s), just 0.01 short of his personal best.  

In his wake, he left silver and bronze medallists Rasmus Vehmaa of Finland and Sisínio Ambriz of Portugal - both of whom chased Diessl home in national U20 records of 13.23 and 13.29 respectively.  

But the Austrian was technically impeccable, revealing a cool head beneath his curly hair. It was also Austria’s first gold medal at the championships in 2011 and Diessl took great pride in the historic significance of his victory. 

“It honestly motivates me that I make our small country proud,” he said. “It fuels me to go even harder. I like that it’s kind of small, it’s cool.  

“I was originally born in Argentina, but I moved to Austria when I was seven years old, and I changed my nationality. I represent Austria and I feel very proud of that. 

He also drew some satisfaction from following in the spike marks of France’s Sasha Zhoya, a European U20 and U23 gold medallist, now making his presence felt in the senior ranks. 

“I feel very honoured that the champion before was Sasha Zhoya. I feel very honoured to be the next one in line. This is just the beginning and gives me lots of self-confidence and motivates me to work even harder for the higher hurdles,” he smiled. 

Like Zhoya, he now faces the prospect of the senior ranks and the additional test of racing over the 1.07 metre-barrier, an eight centimetre increase on the U20 hurdles. 

“It’s a transition you have to make of course,” says the pragmatic Diessl. “It does take some time and I will be working even harder with my coach and that will be the most important thing to get the technique down, to get the hips high and that’s what I will be working on.”  

The stability he seeks on track is mirrored off track too. As a child he took part in judo and athletics. But he began concentrating on track aged 9 and has worked with long-term coach Beate Hochleitner for over 10 years. In addition, he has worked with strength and conditioning coach Christoph Ranz for four years. And the team are not setting any unrealistic expectations as he moves into the senior ranks.  

“It does take time. Next year I want to stay healthy, stay fit and trust the process and from there, we will see how fast I can run,” he says. 

The only disruption to his seemingly serene progress thus far has been the flooding of his training base. 

“I train in Austria in Leibnitzer, sadly it has overflown with water,” he said in the aftermath of victory in Jerusalem.  

“It’s a problem we have to deal with at home. It’s a problem we have had two or three times already. It makes me sad. It’s my home track which I grew up on. I hope I can cheer them up with my gold medal and get everything back to normal.” 

Chris Broadbent for European Athletics 

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