Saturday 3 December 2016

'Home at heart of it' as Heffernan eyes Rio gold

Lindie Naughton

Published 25/02/2016 | 02:30

Heffernan is set to receive medal: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Heffernan is set to receive medal: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Race walker Robert Heffernan will compete in an indoor 5,000m at the French Indoor Championships in Clermont Ferrand this weekend as his preparations for the Rio Olympics move up a notch.

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Heffernan finished fourth at the London Olympics where he knocked seven minutes off his own Irish record. The story isn't over - Heffernan may find himself upgraded to the bronze medal position after the race winner Sergiy Kirdyapkin from Russia was banned on doping charges last month.

A year later, Heffernan produced one of the great performances in Irish athletics when he won the world 50km title. Following a frustrating period of injury and a hernia operation, Heffernan finished fifth in last year's World Championships, and he's aiming for nothing less than gold in Rio.

"The dream always is to win gold. Instinctively I always want to win. I'm not there just to take part - though I sometimes look forward to the day when I can go out for a run and not have to think of techniques or what other athletes are doing," he said.

That won't be happening for a while. "At the moment, it's train, eat, sleep, family, train again every day."

He's lucky to have Brendan Boyce and Alex Reid as his training partners, both of whom have also qualified for Rio. Supervising training is Heffernan's wife Marian. "We get advice from a few others, but Marian is in charge".

It will be a record fifth Olympics for Heffernan.

"A lot has changed since Sydney 2000. I was a single man back then. I am married now with four kids, my wife is my coach and staying at the top of my game is a bigger challenge than ever," he said.

Although he goes to Morocco for training at altitude, home life is central for the Heffernans.

"Rob's training programme will be a lot different for this Olympics. Being away from home for long periods like other years is no longer an option. Home is at the heart of everything," said Marian.

Heffernan (37) has no immediate plans to retire. "We'll review the situation after the Games. We'll see how the body holds up and whether the financial support is in place."

Robert Heffernan was speaking at the launch of the 'Nissan - Road to Rio' series of short films on the preparations of a number of aspiring Olympians.

Irish Independent

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