Heffernan braced for Barcelona

ROBERT HEFFERNAN will have his sights on a medal when he puts the finishing touches to his European Championship preparations at the Irish team’s holding camp in Murcia today, although the Cork man has been keeping very much to himself since embarking on this mission.

“Everything has been going very well,” he said. “I would like to think it is similar to pre-Osaka or Beijing. Training has been solid although there have been hiccups. I had one bad day after the nationals when everything got on top of me.

“But this training camp has been good and the fact that it has been so warm is all in my favour. I don’t have any problem with the heat.

“Tomorrow’s session will involve 10 x 600 at race pace and I am actually looking forward to it.”

His masseur, Liam O’Reilly, insists that the Togher man is heading for another big performance and yesterday he praised him for his commitment and his professionalism.

“I have worked a lot with Robert (Heffernan) over the years and it has always been a pleasure because he is the ultimate professional.

“I was with him at the training camp in Italy and he did all the right things. When he realised that it was not the right training environment he made the right decisions and did right things. He showed his maturity.

“We have been having long days out here in Murcia — working from 7.30am until late into the evening. Robert’s event starts at 8am so we get up a bit earlier every day so that he will be fully adjusted come race day.

“Physically he is in very good shape — as good as I have ever seen him — and he is very focused. His hamstring and hip problems are all history now.

“But, let’s face it, this is the most difficult and toughest of all the disciplines because it’s not a natural body movement so that when you win a race walking medal you have won a very special medal.”

His relationship with his fellow Corkman goes back to pre-Munich in 2002 when he was with him and Mark Carroll at a training camp in Salzburg.

“Having him with me is just brilliant — it’s something that I have always wanted,” Heffernan said. “He does everything, massage, stretching, looks after my drinks, videos my training sessions, and the fact that I have been working with him as far back as 2002 means that he knows me well.”

O’Reilly is part of a voluntary back-up team. Heffernan changed his coaching arrangements at the start of the year when he brought the former Mexican racewalking star, Ivonne Cassin, on to his team. She is married to former Irish international racewalker, Jeff Cassin.

A young Spanish student, Jacinto Garzon, who is doing a thesis on race walking, draws up his programmes which he then passes on to Ivonne Cassin who makes the necessary adjustments.

There will be two notable absentees from the Barcelona line-up. Francisco “Paco” Hernandez, the gold medallist in 2002 in Munich and 2006 in Gothenburg, is serving a reduced one-year suspension although it is now accepted he did not take performance-enhancing drugs while Erik Tysee from Norway who was seventh in Gothenburg and fifth in the 50k in Beijing is fighting to clear his name after he tested positive for the blood booster, CERA, at a competition in Italy in May.


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