Race-walking legend Olive Loughnane believes Robert Heffernan can use his fourth place finish at the London Olympics as a springboard to success at the upcoming World Track and Field Championships in Moscow.
Heffernan will be targeting a podium place in the testing 50km event but faces a stern test from some of the home competitors in particular.
Loughnane, who retired after London, competed in six world championships with the crowning glory being her silver medal in the 20km race walk in Berlin in 2009.
And she sees parallels between Heffernan now, and where she was four years ago before one of the most memorable moments of her career.
“It will be strange not to be competing,” said Loughnane who also competed in the last edition in Daegu in 2011.
“It’s going to be a tough challenge for Robert taking on the Russians in Russia. And then you have the Chinese and Australia’s Jarred Tallent who is a multiple world medallist.
“I came into Berlin after a seventh-place finish in the Beijing Olympics and there was nothing on my mind other than getting a medal in Berlin. In the difficult moments of that race all I thought about was getting a medal and that’s what got me through. I’m sure that’s going to be in Robert’s mind in Moscow. And he can really use his London performance as a springboard to getting a medal.”
Heffernan, who competes on Day 5 of the championships (August 14th), believes everything has gone to plan and he has left no stone unturned along with having the unstinting support of his wife Marian.
“Training has gone to plan,” said the Togher AC athlete. “I have been waiting for this day since after London and I have done everything possible to put myself in the right shape mentally and physically to compete.
“Marian put her running and career to one side to be my full-time coach and I couldn’t do this without her support and of course my grant.”
Loughnane also believes the 11-strong Irish team represents a changing of the guard and reminds her of the team in Osaka in 2007.
“I had taken a year out,” said the Berlin silver medallist. “But when I came back in there was a new attitude in the team with athletes expecting to do well and to get to finals.
“You had the likes of Paul Hession, David Gillick and Joanne Cuddihy coming in and not being satisfied with just making the championships.
“Now we have another young team with the likes of Mark English and Paul Robinson who have a similar attitude and have a genuine right to believe that they will do well.”
This will be the 30th year of the championships with Eamonn Coghlan having won the 5,000m at the inaugural edition in Helsinki in 1983.
While a drug scandal has dominated the headlines in the build-up to Moscow coupled with some high profile withdrawals like David Rudisha (800m) and Jessica Ennis-Hill (Heptathlon), there will still be plenty on offer including the two biggest stars Usain Bolt and Mo Farah – both managed by Donegal’s Rick Simms.
“There will always be new stars and plenty of exciting races,” said RTÉ athletics pundit Jerry Kiernan when speaking to jumpingthegun.ie.
“I think it will be a stimulating championship and will get the pulses racing.”
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