Performance was everything for heroic Heffernan

Performance was everything for heroic Heffernan

Rob Heffernan showed remarkable strength to finish in fourth place in this morning's 50km walk at the European Championships, just three days after claiming fourth in the 20km walk.

Having been just 11 seconds away from a medal over the shorter distance in Barcelona, Heffernan was doubly determined to secure a medal in one of athletics' most gruelling events.

The gritty Corkman excelled himself once again - setting a new Irish record of 3 hours, 45 minutes and 30 seconds - but unfortunately, it was not enough to garner him a podium finish.

"I really enjoyed it. I felt good. People are getting obsessed with medals, I said today that I was going to go out, be smart and be very competitive," he said afterwards.

"Who knows if I went with it earlier? I think I'm the best walker in the field, I went off so conservative and finished the fastest of the field. It's going to give me massive confidence going forward.

"After doing the 20km the other day, I had to be very careful because I didn't know how I was going to recover. After I analysed my splits and had a look at my training, I thought, 'I've a good bit of work done and I'll go for it.'

"I had to be very careful at the start because I did a 50km earlier on in the year, and I went through 40km maybe five minutes faster than today and I blew up, so that experience stood to me today.

"Big Irish record, great performance. It's been a good week for me."

Incredibly, this was only his second time over the distance competitively. His sterling efforts in humid conditions saw him eclipse the national record he set in Dudince earlier this year, taking almost five minutes off his previous best of 3:50:08.

Heffernan, who is married to former Irish 400m champion Marian Andrews, holds national senior records at 5km, 10km, 20km (road) and 50km.

Although he has no medals to show for his efforts this week, the 32-year-old Togher clubman was delighted with his form and progress just two years out from the London Olympics.

"When I came out here, it wasn't in my mind to do the two races. It was in the back of the mind, but I just love the competition.

"People can get obsessed with medals at home. The most important thing at home is that the athletes perform.

"Today's performance can be a gold medal in the future. It doesn't matter what level you're at, it's all about performing. Today was good for me, that's where I'm at.

"It's good practice for London. I could do the two of them (at the Olympics). I'm getting closer and better all the time."

With a European leading time of 3:40:37, France's Yohann Diniz, who led throughout, powered his way to the gold medal over the Barcelona course.

Grzegorz Sudol of Poland sealed silver in 3:42:24 and Russia's Sergey Bakulin won the bronze in 3:43:26, with both setting new personal bests.

Heffernan's Irish team-mate, Colin Griffin from Leitrim, finished 11th overall in 3:57:58, which marked a season's best and a best ever major Championship performance for him.

Griffin sustained a hamstring injury while training in Italy earlier this month and his participation in the Championships was in serious doubt - having been omitted from the initial Irish team - so his Spanish showing is all the more impressive.

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