Rob Heffernan rues Russia’s absence at the Rio Olympics

Rob Heffernan has claimed that the race-walking events at the Rio Olympics will not be the same given the absence of Russian athletes.

Despite being upgraded to European and Olympic bronze medallist in recent times because of doping allegations surrounding two Russian athletes, Heffernan said he always enjoyed taking on the Russians and last night insisted that race-waking events at the Games will be “missing a dynamic for sure”.

The 38-year old took in his final race ahead of Rio at last night’s Cork City Sports meet, the Togher native finishing second to training partner Alex Wright – the latter clocked 11.13.94 to Heffernan’s 11.18.65.

“People have been going on about [the Russians] all year. It never bothered me,” he remarked.

“My mentality has always been that if I am 100%, I always enjoyed racing against them. You had nothing to lose against them. There was that kind of, ‘they’re not doing it right’ and I always got great pleasure in taking them on, in beating them. When they are gone, you are missing a dynamic in the race for sure.

“The Russians brought something to the table at every championship. You know they are like supermen so you have to raise your game. It is kind of like Roy Keane going on about Norwich and why do they only raise their game against Man Utd and not every other team, so you have to have that mentality even when they are not there. You have to raise your game to a massively high standard. The Olympics are the Olympics. You don’t need any greater motivation.” Heffernan flew out to Guadix this morning for a month-long training camp to fine-tune for the Olympics and admitted to being satisfied with how his summer has progressed to date.

“I like when I get to this time of year. The start of the year was very tough. I did a lot of indoor races to throw myself into a competitive environment and to get myself into a threatening situation where I could react. It wasn’t happening for me. My training was going really well. But I was thinking to myself, ‘I’ve been here and I’ve done that’.

“Over 3km tonight, I was 23 seconds faster than I was over 3km on Sunday in Spain because I raised it in front of the home crowd. I know that was only 3km tonight but I still had a sniff of victory with a lap to go and I’m thick enough to try. I am going to be like that for the Olympics. I need the really big occasion. Everything I have done this year has been for Rio. All my eggs are in the one basket.

“The next five weeks is where all the real hard training is done. At my age, I don’t need to be banging out sessions all year. I’m in good shape now. I have all the miles in the bank. Fingers crossed I will give it everything and it will go well.”

The 2013 World champion added: “If you are relaxed and take the view that this is your fifth Olympics, naw, I wouldn’t be going. You have to be scared. The threat has to be massive. The obstacle has to be huge. You will then prepare accordingly. It is when you go out relaxed that it all goes wrong.”

The 3km winner Alex Wright was pleased with his final blowout in advance of Rio.

“It was good to get out and get the win. I’m aiming for the 50km [in Rio]. All my training is for that. I’d like to do well in the 50km.” Wright was one of a select number of Irish winners at the 65th edition of the Cork City Sports.16-year old Elizabeth Morland was just outside her personal best when clocking 13.68 to win the 100m hurdles, while Laura Crowe produced a fine solo effort to claim the 800m spoils in a time of 2.05.73. Adam McMullen of Crusaders AC three times jumped over 7.50m to win the long jump – his best jump was measured at 7.59m in the sixth round.

American Reid Bucchanan kicked past Australia’s Collis Birmingham on the home straight to win an exciting 3,000m in 7.52.49. Ryan Gregson, as expected, didn’t encounter too much difficulty in the mile. The Australian finished in 4.01.37 with American Ahmed Bile second in 4.02.15. John Travers led home the Irish contingent, the Donor Harriers man finished fourth in 4.04.12.

Four-time Paralympic gold medallist Jason Smyth was fourth in the 100m, victory claimed by Kieran Daly of Great Britain in a time of 10.41.


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