After producing the top two performances of the Irish athletics team at the London 2012 Olympics it was little surprise Rob Heffernan scooped the Cork City Sports Athlete of the Year award, nonetheless the race walker admitted he was delighted with the recognition after a year of “glory and heartache”.
Competing in his fourth Olympics, Heffernan was ninth in the 20km walk before finishing fourth in the 50km race with a time that smashed the Irish record by seven minutes and 36 seconds.
Speaking at the presentation ceremony at the River Lee Hotel yesterday Heffernan admitted it was devastating to come so close to a medal only to fall short but insisted he remains positive.
“I have to be happy [with 2012] because with the resources that I had and me putting my own plan together, I did everything I could,” he said. “I was unfortunate, I would have won a medal in every other Olympics.
“I finished ninth in the 20k having performed just as well and fourth in the 50k, on another day it could have been first, but that’s sport.”
He admitted it was difficult to build himself up mentally for London 2012 after falling short of his own expectations with an eighth-place finish in the 2008 Games.
“I went to Beijing as a contender and ended up finishing eighth. After that I said I had nothing to gain from going to another Olympics only glory or heartache.
“As it turned out London was a bit of both glory and heartache because the response at home was very good but I was obviously still heartbroken not to win a medal, but that’s just life.”
At 35, Heffernan knows not to rush into planning for Rio in 2016 but on the back of his best Olympic finish he remains confident about his ability and is intent on keeping himself at the top level for as long as possible.
“I’m just trying to concentrate on what I can do now and not looking too far ahead.
“I want to stay on top of my game for as long as I can and whether that lasts for a year, three years or five years, I don’t know, but I’m taking nothing for granted.”
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