“There is no point in having regrets,” said the Togher athlete, after receiving the medal from fellow world champion and 2000 Olympic silver medallist, Sonia O’Sullivan.
Heffernan was awarded the medal after the ban retrospectively given to Russian Stanislav Emelyanov for a doping offence.
On that July day in Barcelona four years ago, the Cork man had finished just outside the medals in the 20km walk in a time of 1:21:00 but can now add a European bronze to the gold achieved over the longer 50km distance at Moscow in 2013.
“This means so much to me, to receive the medal here in Cork in the presence of my family and friends, because without the support of those people I couldn’t have done what I have done in the sport,” said Heffernan.
“On top of that, to have our greatest sports person in history to present the medal to me makes it a great occasion,” he added.
Athletics Ireland president, Ciarán Ó Catháin, said Heffernan’s overdue reward was proof of the old saying that “good things come to those who wait”.
“Rob Heffernan is a Cork and Irish legend and I’m delighted to his list of honours he can now add this European bronze medal which is richly deserved.”
Cork Lord Mayor Mary Shields, described Heffernan as a “true sportsman”, adding that what he has achieved over the past 10 years was a tribute to his perseverance, courage, talent and great heart.
After undergoing a hernia operation last month, Heffernan said he was just back in training having covered 130km this week and is planning on racing a 50km in March.