Friday 25 May 2018

Walking trio aim to raise Irish spirits on final day

Brendan Boyce will take to the streets of London tomorrow. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Brendan Boyce will take to the streets of London tomorrow. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Cathal Dennehy

And so it comes down to this: three athletes, two races, one final chance at a medal to offer some light in a what has otherwise been a gloomy championships for the Irish.

Race walking trio Rob Heffernan, Brendan Boyce and Alex Wright will take to the streets of London tomorrow, and while we've learned at this level to keep our expectations in check, hope springs once again that they can pull off some unlikely heroics.

Wright will compete in the 20km race tomorrow afternoon on the Mall, the 26-year-old coming into the championships in the form of his life after a recent training camp in Spain and having posted a PB of 1:21:17 for the distance earlier this year.

That equates to an 85-minute half-marathon - walking.

Wright, however, fell victim to some eagle-eyed, heavy-handed judging at the National Championships in Santry two weeks ago, a dent in confidence right when he didn't need it.

Earlier tomorrow Heffernan and Boyce will compete in the 50km event, and no prizes for guessing who, once again, will carry the burden of being Ireland's sole medal chance.

While Boyce has developed into a world-class performer in recent years, a top-10 finish would represent a colossal step forward for the 30-year-old Donegal man, so any chance of a podium placing will rest with Heffernan.

Useless

Giving credence to early-season form in the 50km race walk is useless, but the 39-year-old Corkman has made all the right noises about his preparations in recent weeks.

Heffernan finished fifth at the World Championships two years ago, sixth in Rio last year, and given the way the field in London has come apart in recent weeks, with the absence of Rio gold and silver medallists Matej Toth and Jared Tallent, a repeat of those performances may see him reach the podium.

However, he will have to contend with the relative youngsters of his event, guys like Evan Dunfee of Canada (26) and Hirooki Arai (29) of Japan, who both beat Heffernan in Rio and would be favoured to do so again.

Back in the London Stadium, meanwhile, Dafne Schippers of retained her world 200m title with a dominant display last, leaving Marie-Josee Ta Lou of the Ivory Coast to settle for another hair's breadth silver.

With Olympic champion Elaine Thompson opting not to race the 200m and Tori Bowie pulling out, it looked easier for Schippers but she had to use all her strength to win in 22.05 seconds.

Mo Farah will bid to crown his track career with gold in the men's 5,000m final at 8.20 tonight, with the Ethiopian duo Muktar Edris and Yomif Kejelcha the only credible threats.

Tonight's action concludes with the men's 4x100m at 9.50, where Usain Bolt will look to sign off his all-conquering career with one more triumph for Jamaica.

World Championships, live,

BBC 1 9.30/BBC 2 1.30pm tom

Irish in action:

Tomorrow: Rob Heffernan, Brendan Boyce, men's 50km race walk, 7.45am; Alex Wright, men's 20km race walk, 2.20pm

Irish Independent

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