CHAMPION athlete Rob Heffernan has two detectives and his manager to thank for retrieving his stolen World Championship gold medal in a sting operation.
The precious memento was stolen from Heffernan's car while he was in Dublin attending the Irish Independent Sportstar awards.
The 35-year-old race walker from Cork arrived in Dublin on Sunday evening for the ceremony and stayed at a city hotel.
The theft from his car occurred sometime between Sunday night and yesterday morning.
His manager, Derry McVeigh, received a phone call at 6.50am yesterday from a taxi driver claiming that a Romanian gang had the medal and were offering it back for a sum of money understood to be €200.
A meeting was arranged with the taxi driver near the St Stephen's Green area shortly after noon yesterday and detectives recovered the medal.
As part of their follow-up inquiries, investigating gardai believe an inner-city criminal gang were involved in the theft, and it is expected that two arrests will be made.
Mr McVeigh said: "It was a very well executed operation, and I just fell in line with it to be honest. I didn't feel nervous I just did what I was asked so we could get Rob's medal back.
"I didn't realise how many sections of the gardai can integrate so quickly and move something along at a great pace.
"My fear was that if word got out in the media that the medal was missing, whoever had it might dump it."
Heffernan thanked gardai for retrieving the medal which he won at the World Athletics Championships during the summer, and posted a photo of them and his manager with the medal.
"Huge thank you to An Gardai and my manager Derry who performed a sting operation to retrieve my stolen medal," the Cork man tweeted.