Monday 19 February 2018

Rejuvenated Heffernan rows back on retirement plans

Heffernan: Irish athlete of the year. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Heffernan: Irish athlete of the year. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

athletics

Whatever he may have told us in London, it turns out rumours of Rob Heffernan's retirement were greatly exaggerated.

While it's true the 39-year-old has taken a step back from race-walking - at least for now - he will not be venturing far from his usual training regime, or indeed our TV screens, over the coming months.

Instead of churning out the metronomic miles in isolation, though, he'll be moving to a very different rhythm on his new adventure, details of which will be announced tomorrow.

But the key question everyone wanted to know at yesterday's national athletics awards, where Heffernan was crowned Athlete of the Year, was whether we'd seen the last of him in an Irish vest.

"I'm 39 but I'm still up there and I feel if I can stay injury-free and motivated that I can still win a medal," said Heffernan, who indicated he would likely retire after finishing eighth in the World Championships in London earlier this year.

"It's been a hard few years, emotionally and physically, and I need to see how I feel then go to altitude in April and see how things are."

Heffernan admitted that after London his body and mind had had enough of the sport, but in recent months he has reconsidered.

"I just needed a break from the whole misery of it," he said.

"I need to do something new for a while because it's not going to go on forever and I can't be this one-dimensional person.

"When you're in the athletics bubble, you're always trying to move forward, to understand what you did wrong and what you can do better, and it's very anti-social to a degree.

"But with this new thing I'm doing, my body is still replenishing because I'm not doing 100 miles a week and I'm recovering mentally too."

And while Heffernan's career may not be in the past, an athlete whose best days are in the future was also a winner yesterday, with Gina Akpe-Moses scooping the U-20 prize.

The European U-20 100m champion needed all her speed after miscalculating the start time and making a late dash from the track in Morton Stadium in her training gear to receive her award - a good indication of where her priorities lie ahead of the 2018 season.

"World Juniors is the main event and hopefully it'll be just as good as the Europeans, maybe even better," she said.

"Training is going very well. It's a lot of hard work but I'm stronger."

Ray Flynn, the fastest Irishman ever over 1,500m and a mile, was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

"I was privileged to run in a magical time in athletics against many of the world's greatest athletes, and many of them happened to be Irish," said the Longford native.

"It's incredible to be joining the great athletes in the Hall of Fame."

Irish Independent

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