Olympian Loughnane calls time on glittering race-walking career

Former world championship silver medallist Olive Loughnane has retired from athletics.

One of Ireland’s most successful race walkers, Loughnane enjoyed an incredible career, competing at four Olympic Games, with her best placed finished coming in Beijing in 2008 when she came seventh.

The highlight of her glittering career was undoubtedly when she was second to Russia’s Olga Kaniskina over 20km at the world championships in Berlin in 2009.

Loughnane, along with Gillian O’Sullivan were at the forefront of a golden age for the sport in Ireland and Loughnane admits that her role in raising the profile of the sport is one of her proudest achievements.

“Ten years ago people thought there was no difference between what we were doing and a person walking to the shop. But then as the awareness grew, so did people’s knowledge of what was involved, the training we put in and the speeds we were capable of. It was nice in recent years when I’d be out training with Rob Heffernan around Páirc Uí Chaoimh and people would be wishing us well ahead of the Olympics. People knew who we were and what we were doing. Things like that certainly helped put a smile on my face especially when I had another 15 or 16K ahead!”

The Loughrea AC star (37) has no regrets about hanging up her gear. “My feeling was that I would quit while I was ahead and that I would know that the time was right from a personal and performance point of view. That time is now.”

Last night she paid tribute to all who helped mould her career from the grassroots in Loughrea through to Athletics Ireland and The Sports Council. Now she hopes to help inspire the next generation of athletics talent.

“I expect to be involved in a representation type role. On a more micro level I like being involved with developing young kids and athletes. I get a kick out of visiting National Schools locally so that is something I am keen to continue. Coaching is something I might look at but I will probably take a step back from the elite side of things for the while.”

And for the future, she is relishing day to day life around the Cork village of Coachford.

“It will be nice to live a normal life and see more of my husband Martin and daughter Eimear. It means I wouldn’t be spending my days between the road, ice bath and bed,” she said.

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