Rob Heffernan poised to collect overdue Olympic medal in Cork in November

It didn’t arrive yesterday, as he hoped, but Rob Heffernan will nonetheless get his hands on an Olympic medal in the coming months.

Shortly after finishing fifth in the 50km race walk in Rio, the 38-year-old revealed his bronze medal from the London 2012 Olympics will be presented to him at a ceremony in Cork in November.

“Pat Hickey has the medal at the moment; someone said it was all he had on when he got arrested,” said Heffernan with a laugh. “The medal is already in Ireland so we’ll have it [presented] in Cork and I hope everybody will be there so we can celebrate it properly.”

Heffernan crossed the line fourth in the 50km race walk at London 2012, but was upgraded to the bronze medal earlier this year after Russian champion Sergey Kirdyapkin tested positive in retro-active tests.

Of course, this is familiar territory for the Cork race walker. In December 2014, he was presented with the bronze medal for the 20km race walk at the City Hall in Cork from the 2010 European Championships in Barcelona, which he received after Russia’s Stanislav Emelyanov was banned retrospectively for doping.

With their federation still banned by the IAAF, Russian athletes played no part in yesterday’s race, and in contrast to many recent championship race walks there was a feeling among the leading contenders that this result would stand the test of time.

“What [silver medallist] Jared Tallent has done for clean sport, this is one of the first medals he doesn’t have to worry about,” said bronze medallist Evan Dunfee of Canada. “He’s never going to have to think: will this be gold? Both of those guys are legitimate, and Matej is a phenomenal athlete.”

Toth was asked in the press conference about the absence of Russians from the race, and the Slovakian struck a convincing tone in response. “They deserved this punishment, especially in race walking,” he said. “They had many positive tests. This was a very clean race and I hope it will stay the same after this and we can have a clean competition without cheaters.

“I hope that Russia will fix their problems because they can have very good walkers without doping, so I just hope they realise they can do it. They can still reach the top level.”

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