HOPE turned to despair for Olive Loughnane in Barcelona yesterday when a stomach bug forced her to pull out of the women’s 20k walk after 5,000m and dashed her hopes of adding a European medal to the silver she won at the world championships in Berlin last year.
Loughnane shared the early pacemaking before world and Olympic champion, Olga Kaniskina, and Russian team-mate, Anisya Kirdyapkina, took control of the race.
The field begun to fragment at 5k point when Loughnane stopped and walked off the course where she was joined quickly by her husband, Martin Corkery, and her race walking team-mate, Robert Heffernan.
“It’s been on and off,” she said of her illness. “I thought I’d manage, but once into the race, my stomach wasn’t holding out. I could have gone through the motions, but I set such a high standard last year that it’s hard just to go through the motions. You have to take the bad days with the good. I’ve had three very good years and I’ll have more good years.”
She said she was unsure if the problem was related to the problem which ruled her out of the national championships a fortnight ago.
“I seemed to have come out of that but then I got sick again,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a very fine line — when you’re that fit — to stay on the right side of health. Maybe I went just a little too far this year. And I’m not the only one — some of the other teams have had problems as well.”
She admitted: “It’s been a very difficult year. I had a very good relationship last year with a coach and unfortunately that didn’t work out, due to circumstances outside my control, and her control. I’ve been battling so hard all year, and didn’t stop battling. Maybe that took a bit out of me.
“But I’m depleted — I am just not keeping food in at the moment. I had been in such great shape I had to try and I did try but it just wasn’t possible. I have a lot of wonderful people behind me. It’s bitterly disappointing. I feel bad for them, but nobody puts me under as much pressure as I do.”
It was an Russian podium after Kaniskina claimed her first European gold medal in 87.44 from Anisya Kirdyapkina and Vera Sokolova.
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