UNTIL last weekend, Robert Heffernan held every race walking record up to 50k. But along came his old training partner, Jamie Costin, who smashed his 3,000m time before his home fans at Cork City Sports.
Now Heffernan can’t wait for a high noon clash with the West Waterford man when they get the second session of the Woodies DIY National Championships underway at MortonStadium tomorrow.
And the Togher man admitted that the 1,000 on offer for the athlete of the meeting and another 500 for a national record will be an added incentive.
“I think the money will go to whoever wins this race,” he said as he prepared to fly back to Dublin from his training camp. He missed out on Cork City Sports last weekend as he was catching up on training after a hip problem.
The training camp in Italy was not up to expectations and the fact that the weather was dreadful and he had to train on his own did not help. Most of all, while he was away, Jamie Costin was claiming his thunder and his record at the CIT track in Cork.
“Jamie is flying, he broke my national record and that’s motivation enough for me,” he said.
Reflecting on his performance in Cork, Costin said: “I think the athlete of the meet will come out of the 10,000m walk. Colin Griffin will be back along with Rob so it’s going to be a hot race.
“That would normally be below my distance but I am walking 20k this year so this is the first time in a long time that I have been preparing specifically for 20k. I did a pb for 5k just directly down from altitude in France and doing 11:12 in Cork is a big step up from that again.”
World silver medallist, Olive Loughnane will walk over 5,000m, well below the 20k at which she excelled at the Olympic Games and the world championships in Berlin last year.
She knows that she is expected to win a medal at the European championships and underscored the expectations at the Race Walking Challenge in La Coruna where she finished second to Beatriz Pascual (Spain) in 88:36, her fastest time since Beijing and she had Vera Santos, Ines Henriques and Hong Liu in her wake.
“Barcelona is going to be hot and hopefully I’ll be hot as well on the day,” she said, recalling how her family backed her to win a medal at the world championships in Berlin last year.
Thomas Chamney is one of the busiest Irish athletes around. Last week it was 800m in Madrid and last night he competed at 1,500m in Barcelona and will go directly from Dublin Airport to Santry this afternoon to begin his defence of his 800m title.
“It’s mandatory that I have to compete at the nationals but I don’t get into Dublin until 12.30pm. The plan is to run the 800m heats at 2.30pm. But that could change if there are delays.”
He is now an experienced campaigner. After the Olympic Games in Beijing (800m) and the world championships in Berlin (800m/1,500m) he admits it is now time to deliver.
Derval O’Rourke and David Gillick also competed in Barcelona last night. Tomorrow O’Rourke will equal Susan Smith’s record of eight titles in the 100m hurdles while Gillick goes in the 100m, with favourite Jason Smyth doubtful through injury.
Alistair Cragg and David McCarthy are other athletes with busy schedules. Cragg goes in the 5,000m at the Diamond League meeting in Gateshead today while David McCarthy, back from Providence College, will be looking for a qualifying time for the European Championships at a BMC meeting in Solihull. Tomorrow both of them will compete in the 5,000m in Santry.
McCarthy is tantalisingly close to the qualification standard and he won a midweek race in Manchester in 3:44 and an IMC 1,500m in Santry in 3:42 in the lead up to Cork City Sports where he got embroiled in a lot of bumping on the final bend.
“The goal is the Europeans but if it doesn’t work out, it’s not a loss of a season,” he said.
Alistair Cragg competes in the nationals to fulfil selection credentials before the provisional team for the European Championships is named tomorrow night but there will be a problem with Martin Fagan’s selection as he has remained on at his training camp in Arizona.
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