Tuesday 27 September 2016

'Legend' Heffernan to pick up medal - but not for Rio Games

Published 20/08/2016 | 02:30

Rob Heffernan with his wife Marian after the race. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Rob Heffernan with his wife Marian after the race. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

They roared themselves hoarse, but while Ireland's 50km walk star Rob Heffernan will receive an Olympic medal, unfortunately it won't be for Rio 2016.

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More than 100 family and friends gathered at Murphy's Rock Bar in Ballyvolane, Cork, to cheer on the 38-year-old Togher star as he attempted to make Irish athletic history at his fifth Olympic Games.

Rob's sisters Rhonda and Lynsey react during the race.
Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney
Rob's sisters Rhonda and Lynsey react during the race. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney

Rob made his debut back at the 2000 Sydney Games and yesterday defied searing Brazilian heat and humidity to finish sixth, just 2.57 minutes behind the Slovakian winner.

He finished fourth in the 50km walk at the 2012 London Olympics but was upgraded to the bronze medal earlier this year when Russian athlete Sergey Kirdyapkin was disqualified for a doping offence.

But the Irish athlete asked for the London medal award ceremony to be postponed until after the Rio Games to avoid distraction.

Unfortunately, despite an heroic effort in gruelling conditions, Rob wasn't able to make history by adding a Rio medal to his London haul as he finished sixth.

Fans including his son Cathal, daughter Meghan and sister
Anthea watch him compete in the 50k walk in Cork yesterday.
Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Fans including his son Cathal, daughter Meghan and sister Anthea watch him compete in the 50k walk in Cork yesterday. Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

It wasn't for lack of support back home though as Rob's father Bobby and sisters Rhonda, Anthea and Lynsey joined his children, Cathal and Meghan, extended family members, neighbours and Togher AC supporters to cheer him on.

"We're so proud of him. The conditions out there must have been terrible with that heat," his older sister Rhonda said.

"He's a legend, a true legend. How many sisters can say they cheered on their brother in five different Olympic Games?" Anthea asked.

Bobby admitted he was nervous watching the race given the difficult weather conditions and the obvious toll the temperature was taking on the athletes. "I'm so proud of him - that must have been really tough out there."

Togher AC official Aidan Hartnett said Rob had been a huge asset for Cork and Irish athletics for years.

"The 50km is a cruel event. It's energy sapping. The heat and humidity out there was horrendous to watch."

Irish Independent

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