Heffernan to double up in London

Robert Heffernan was impressed when the main group of Irish athletes arrived at the Irish holding camp in Lensbury, Teddington, yesterday to put the finishing touches to their Olympic build-up.

Heffernan, who has unbelievable respect from his peers around the Olympic Village, has been down this way previously. But if he can improve in his showing at the European Championships in Barcelona two years ago when he finished fourth in the 20k walk and, a couple of days later, finished fourth on what was only his second ever trip over 50k this visit could earn him a medal.

Those performances set him thinking about a double up at London 2012 and, while he has been training specifically for the longer distance his coach, Liam O’Reilly, confirmed yesterday he will definitely compete in both at London.

“The way we see it there are a number of reasons why a walker who is a good 20k walker should double up,” he said. “First of all he will go through the whole process of getting to the venue and getting pre-race nerves thing out of the way.

“Then, in the competition itself, if he finds himself in a position where he is walking exceptionally well then he can go for. Robert knows, from experience now, that he has all the reserves he needs to double up at 50k because he has done it before, finished fourth and still had something left in the tank.

“If he improves on what he did in Barcelona, and we should not forget that he had the Olympic champion behind him in the 50k, then he can be a medal contender. From that point of view a double up is something of a win-win situation.

“From my point of view I can control part of build up. This is his fourth Olympics so he knows better than anybody what it’s all about and what he has to do, I don’t tell him what to do. He is in a different league, an elite league of people, and he’ll prove it out here.

“Up to now, training has been just perfect. He had his last hard session on the Lee Road yesterday and some of the lads came out with him and that made a big difference.

“Unbelievably, there was 100% humidity. He walked really well and it was nice to get that last hard session out of the way, both psychologically and physically.”

He admitted that, from his own point of view, it was emotional as they were away at the training camp in Guadix when the Bandon AC supremo Diarmuid O’Neill died.

“I feel privileged and honoured to be a coach here but I don’t think it would ever have happened without Diarmuid,” Heffernan said.

“He was the man who picked us up every Sunday and drove us to the meetings. Every single time he took us out he would stop and buy us ice cream or whatever we wanted — all out of his own pocket. He was a very generous man. It’s only when something like this comes along you stop and ask yourself ‘how did I end up here?’”

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