‘Head honcho’ Heffernan shows Irish athletes can walk the walk

Athletics Ireland chairman of High Performance Ray Flynn described Robert Heffernan’s victory in the 50km race walk as the “best day of my athletics life” and that the main message of the Corkman’s performance was to “the athletes themselves.”

‘Head honcho’ Heffernan shows Irish athletes can walk the walk

Flynn, who has been involved with Heffernan for the past 20 years, believes Heffernan’s gold medal should show other Irish athletes that they can compete on the international stage.

“I’ve noticed in the last few years that Irish athletes don’t believe they can compete internationally for various reasons,” said Flynn. “You’d hear them say they can’t compete because of the Kenyans or whatever.

“Robert proved that you can compete. He trains incredibly hard. He went full-time as an athlete 15 years ago when it wasn’t fashionable at the time. He’s a real character of the sport and I knew he’d come good one day and win a medal. And he skipped bronze and silver to win the gold.”

Heffernan received his gold medal yesterday evening and was visibly holding back the tears on the medal rostrum. Earlier in the morning, he had the BBC in the palm of his hand and jokingly said he was the “head honcho” and that his wife Marian’s failure to run an A standard was the reason she became a vital part of his backroom team.

“Marian ran in the relay in London last year,” said Heffernan. “We sat down after London and I said: ‘You’re not going to win a medal, you need to re-evaluate this. I’m the head honcho in the house.’”

He emerged as the head honcho of the world in the 50km race walk on Wednesday and believes, despite it not being the most high profile event, that you will get the respect for your event if you’re good enough.

“I think that if anyone is good at any event, they can make it look good. You’ll get the respect if you’re good enough.”

There was disappointment yesterday morning when Ireland’s Rose-Anne Galligan failed to qualify for the semi-finals of the women’s 800m finishing 7th in heat 2 in 2:02.05. Galligan broke Sonia O’Sullivan’s national 800m record running 2:00.58 at the London Anniversary Games in July but failed to reproduce that form in the Luzhniki Stadium.

The highlight performance on day six of the World Track and Field Championships was the men’s 400m Hurdles final, where Jehue Gordon of Trinidad and Tobago held off American Michael Tinsley by one hundredth of a second – hurdling to gold in 47.69 to Tinsley’s 47.70. Emir Berkic of Serbia was third in 48.05.

Ukraine’s Bogdan Bondarenko failed at a world record attempt of 2.46m in the men’s high jump but still soared to gold with a 2.41m effort.

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