World champion Rob Heffernan off the pace in China
IRELAND'S world champion walker Rob Heffernan found the pace a little too hot to handle when the world’s best 20km men put the pedal to the metal in China earlier today.
Heffernan's world title last summer was won at over twice that distance, and though he has previously doubled up and raced both at European championships and Olympics, he could only manage23rd in the 20km at the World Race Walking Cup in Taicang.
The race was played out in horribly wet conditions and Heffernan got burnt off just before the half-way mark when the pace was suddenly upped to under four minutes per kilometre.
“For me four minutes (kilometres) is very, very fast, it’s out of my comfort-zone,” said the Corkman who turned 36 two months ago.
“I tried to go with it initially but I just haven’t got those wheels. From then on I just had to re-group myself and keep working on my own race."
Heffernan was at the front of the large leading bunch who went through eight kilometres in 32:17 and half-way in 40:10 but suddenly got detached after a sudden injection of pace which eventually saw the winner average 3.55 minutes per kilometre.
He dropped as low as 30th initially but worked his way back up the field steadily and reflected that his time of 81 minutes flat was “still very solid.”
However disappointed Heffernan was that was mild compared to China’s Olympic 20km champion Chen Ding, who only managed 15th in front of an adoring home crowd in a race won, in a new Ukrainian record of 1:18.37, by Ruslan Dmytrenko.
The locals had high hopes of dominating the 20km as it contained two of their medallists from the last Olympics but this time their fourth-placed man in London, Cai Zelin, did the business.
Like Dmytrenko, he had been a podium finisher in the big Gand Prix in Switzerland this year and today he won silver in 1:18:52 with Russia’s former world junior champion Andrey Ruzavin taking bronze seven seconds later.
Donegal’s Brendan Boyce(Letterkenny), who was 28th on his Olympic debut, was next best of the Irish, finishing 77th in 1:26.55.
UCC student Luke Hickey (19) got a personal best when he finished 80th in 1:27.51 and Westport’s Cian McManamon finished 84th (1:28.51) in the 112-field which saw eight men disqualified, including Russia’s reigning world 20km champion Alexsanr Ivanov, and four more drop out.
Dmytrenko's victory was not just his country's first global gold in racewalking but Ukraine also clinched the team gold thanks to seventh and 10th places, edging out the Chinese by five places and Japan took third.
Results of today’s (Sun) World Race Walking Championships at Taicang, China
Senior Men 20km – 1 R Deytrenko (Ukr) 1:18.37 (NR), 2 C Zelin (Chn) 1:18.52, 3 A Ruzavin (Rus) 1:18.59, 4 Y Suzuki (Jap) 1:19.19, 5 M Angel Lopez (Esp) 1:19.21, 6 W Zhien (Chn) 1:19.40. Ireland: 23 R Heffernan (Togher) 1:21:00, 77 B Boyce (Letterkenny) 1:26.55, 80 L Hickey (UCC) 1:27.5 (PB), 84 C McManamon (Westport) 1:28.51 (SB). Teams – 1 Ukraine 18 (1/7/10), 2 China 23 (2/6/15), 3 Japan 35 (4/9/22).
Junior Women 10km – 1 D Duan (Chn) 43:05, 2 J Yang (Chn) 43:37, 3 A Drahotova (Cze) 43:40 (NR), 4 L Carcia-Caro (Esp) 45:29, 5 H Cun (Chn) 45:52, K Afanaseva (Rus) 45:59. Teams – 1 China 3 (1/2), 2 Spain 13 (4/9), 3 Australia 20 (8/12).