Heffernan walking tall for Olympics

ALREADY qualified for the 20k walk at next year’s Olympic Games, Robert Heffernan can fight for a medal on two fronts after posting his qualifying standard for the 50k walk at Naumburg.

The Corkman took second place in 3:49.28 secs and young Letterkenny racewalker Brendan Boyce also laid claim to a place in the 50k with a lifetime best of 3:57.58 when finishing sixth in the same race.

Heffernan is training in Australia with his wife, Marian, a member of the women’s 4x400m squad with sights on London 2012.

Boyce would appear to be a shoo-in for the Olympics but these are not normal times as athletes are queuing up for qualification, and there are still two other athletes in frame for the 50k race.

Jamie Costin (West Waterford), who made his Olympic debut in Sydney in 2000, is primed for a big shot at qualification and Colin Griffin from Manorhamilton, who had qualification at his mercy until he was disqualified in the closing stages of the 50k at the world championships in Daegu, is also in line.

Everything points towards a three-way shoot-out between Boyce, Costin and Griffin, possibly in Saransk in May — there is no walk or marathon at the European championships in Helsinki in June, so qualification will have to be secured before then.

Anyway, it appears certain Ireland will have a three-man team in the 50k at the Olympic Games with Heffernan — a medal hope in both events — doubling up at 20k and Olive Loughnane likely to build on her sensational performance in Beijing when she lines up for the women’s 20k walk.

Fionnuala Britton, who claimed an historic victory in the senior women’s race at last weekend’s SPAR European cross-country championships, has already qualified for the steeplechase at next year’s Olympics but team manager, Patsy McGonagle, said yesterday he is satisfied that she will also achieve the qualifying standard for 10,000m.

“I would see her as a natural 10,000m runner and she only confirmed that opinion on Sunday in Slovenia,” he said.

“I have discussed it with her coach, Chris Jones, and it is likely she will go for the standard early next year, possibly in Stanford.

“Fionnuala brought an exciting year to the perfect conclusion last weekend. She is an exceptional talent and I would say that she has not reached her potential at all yet. We will see many more performances like this from her.”

Meanwhile, most of the athletes who have qualified on the track for next year’s Olympic Games, have expressed an interest in competing in the world indoor championships in Istanbul in March.

Paul Hession (200m), Derval O’Rourke (100m hurdles), Ciaran O’Lionaird (1,500m) and Alistair Cragg (5,000m), who have qualified for the Olympics, as well as the former two-time European indoor 400m champion, David Gillick, who has yet to qualify for London, have been included in the preliminary entries. Hession has qualified at 200m for London 2012 and, as there is no 200m race on the indoor programme, it will be interesting to see if he competes over 60m or 400m.

He holds the Irish record at 60m as well as 100m and 200m but expressed an interest in moving up to 400m in the last indoor season.



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