FORMER world silver medallist and four-time Olympian Olive Loughnane has retired from racewalking.
The Loughrea woman, Ireland’s most decorated racewalker, won a silver medal at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin but has decided to retire from athletics at the age of 37.
Her best placed finish at an Olympic games was when she came home in seventh position in Beijing in 2008.
Loughnane, Gillian O’Sullivan and Robert Heffernan have been responsible for raising the profile of racewalking in Ireland and Loughnane believes this is her greatest achievement.
“Ten years ago people thought there was no difference between what we were doing and a person walking to the shop,” she said.
“But then as the awareness grew, so did people’s knowledge of what was involved, the training we put in and the speeds we were capable of.
“It was nice in recent years when I’d be out training with Rob Heffernan around Páirc Uí Chaoimh and people would be wishing us well ahead of the Olympics.
“People knew who we were and what we were doing. Things like that certainly helped put a smile on my face especially when I had another 15 or 16K ahead!”
The mother-of-one took the decision to retire as she believes the timing was right.
“My feeling was that I would quit while I was ahead and that I would know that the time was right from a personal and performance point of view. That time is now,” she said
The Cork-born athlete, who was raised in Carrabane, co Galway, will now concentrate on a career in coaching and is already looking at a number of projects with the Irish Sports Council.
“I expect to be involved in a representation type role,” she added.
“On a more micro level I like being involved with developing young kids and athletes. I get a kick out of visiting National Schools locally so that is something I am keen to continue.
“Coaching is something I might look at but I will probably take a step back from the elite side of things for the while.”