Sunday 23 October 2016

Heffernan to continue as Coyle falls short

Sean McGoldrick

Published 20/08/2016 | 02:30

Rob Heffernan in the Men's 50km Walk Final in Rio Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Rob Heffernan in the Men's 50km Walk Final in Rio Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Rob Heffernan has vowed not to hang up his racing shoes after producing a heroic performance in the 50km walk.

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The 38-year-old crossed the line sixth but was later upgraded to fifth, then demoted back to sixth, when Japan's Hirooki Arai was disqualified for bumping, then reinstated on appeal.

Watched by his wife and coach Marian, he promised to compete in next year's world championships in London.

Firstly, though, he has an Olympic medal ceremony to look forward to in his native Cork in November.

Heffernan opted not to formally receive the bronze medal he was retrospectively awarded, after his fourth-place finish in London was upgraded to third, until after the Rio Games. Even though he was visibly in pain, with the right side of his body going into spasm, when he spoke to journalists, he still had time to crack a joke when asked about the whereabouts of the bronze medal.

Turning to the athletes's team manager Patsy McGonigle, Heffernan asked: "Will I tell them where the medal is Patsy?" The Donegal man just shook his head; he had obviously heard this particular joke before.

"Pat [Hickey] has the medal at the moment," continued Heffernan. "Someone said they saw that he had it on when he was arrested."

Actually the medal is believed to be in the Howth headquarters of the Olympic Council of Ireland, and Heffernan is planning a big party in his native city for the medal presentation ceremony.

"I hope everyone is going to be there. All the country will celebrate it," he said.

Asked whether he had ruled out the possibility of making a sixth Olympic appearance in Tokyo in four years's time, Heffernan was more cautious, saying: "We are going to drive on and enjoy the night."

Elsewhere last night, Meath's Natalya Coyle finished a credible seventh in the modern pentathlon.

Ninth in the London Olympics four years ago, 25-year-old Coyle was lying sixth overall going into the final event - a combined cross-country/shooting event in which the leader starts first with their challengers in pursuit.

The competitors have to stop after each 800m run, of which there are four to complete, to shoot down five targets with a pistol, and Coyle slipped to seventh with a personal best total of 1325 points.

Australian Chloe Esposito, who started the final event seventh, saved her best form for when it mattered most and she took the gold medal with a winning total of 1372 points.

The modern pentathlon simulates the experience of a 19th century cavalry solder behind enemy lines: they must ride an unfamiliar horse, fight with pistol and sword, swim and run.

An Olympic event since Stockholm in 1912 it now consists epee fencing; 200m freestyle swimming, showjumping and four 800m runs with a shooting competition from a range of 50m.

Irish Independent

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