Loughnane and Heffernan can lift Irish athletic spirits

Olive Loughnane and Robert Heffernan can today lift spirits towards the end of what has been a poor games for Irish athletes.

Last Saturday Heffernan provided an early lift when he finished ninth in the men’s 20k with the second fastest time of his career and what made that even more exciting was the fact he did it on the training he has been doing for the 50k for the past two years.

A doping scandal has hovered over the race since Beijing winner, Alex Schwazer, tested positive for EPO in a test taken on July 30. He wasn’t at the World Race Walking Cup in Saransk where Sergey Kirdyapkin finished a mere two seconds ahead of fellow Russian Igor Erikhin in 3:38:08.

Jared Tallent finished third and Robert Heffernan was closing on the Australian at the end of the 20k last weekend.

“He is good — his energy is back,” coach Liam O’Reilly said. “He is just focused on what he has to do. This is what he has been training for. We have spent the last 12 months on this. It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work. He is as ready as he is going to be. The most important thing is that he performs. Then he has to wait and see how the race unfolds. He has that innate ability to calculate speed and distance. He will be able to adjust his race plans. That’s why he is such a wonderful athlete.

“Last weekend was unbelievable — second best performance of his life and he was not that far off. It is all the more remarkable when you consider he was able to do it on 50k training.”

It will also be a big day for Colin Griffin and Brendan Boyce, a newcomer to 50k. Griffin, from Ballinamore, is from a family steeped in athletics. His father, Pádraig, is a former President of BLE, and his mother, Patricia, is a former international middle distance runner.

Brendan Boyce is the most improved race walker in the country this year.

“He has improved dramatically since qualifying for the Olympic Games,” O’Reilly said. “That could be due to the fact he has been working out with Robert and Colin ,who is also a very experienced racewalker. I think they, too, will do very well here.”

Loughnane goes in the women’s 20k this evening four years after she was one of 12 walkers inside the Olympic record when finishing seventh in Beijing. The following year she won the silver medal at the world championships in Berlin and underscored her wellbeing when she hit her eighth place target in Saransk.

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