ROBERT HEFFERNAN, Togher AC and Cork athletics legend, crowned a great career with an excellent eighth place finish in the men’s 50km Race Walk in 3:44:41 at the IAAF World Championships in London yesterday.
At 39 years of age Heffernan has competed in his last major championship and soon after the race announced his retirement from the sport.
The Togher athlete is now a legend of the sport, having competed in five Olympic Games, and medalling at all the majors – European, World and Olympic.
His crowning glory was, of course, becoming the world champion in Moscow in 2013.
The Cork native began slowly and struggled to breach the top 10 in the first two hours, finding himself 21st at 30km.
However, with 10km to go, Heffernan picked up the pace and ultimately finished strongly to secure a top-10 placing in his final international event.
“It was a tough race today but I had to turn it into a positive,” said Heffernan afterward.
“The last 10km I was back to my old self.
"I’ve had a great career and it was a good note to go out on.
"I’d like to thank my team and everyone who has supported me.”
France’s Yohann Diniz won the race in a championship record of 3:33:12.
Referring to the thousands of enthusiastic spectators watching on from the 7:45am start, many of whom were Irish, Heffernan added: “It was the Irish crowd, the familiar faces of everybody who supported me.
“The motivation for me today was to give them something positive, to give them something to say thanks.
“I could have been putting my head down and feeling sorry for myself when I wasn’t going to win a medal, but it was lovely to thank people.
“It was lovely to come here, and lovely for them, to give something back – and from the bottom of my heart, I’d really like to thank everybody who has supported me, and that’s what has been keeping me going this year.
“It’s been emotional.”
In terms of his retirement, which was confirmed after the race, Heffernan still quipped: “Never say never. I might have to re-evaluate my marriage situation though.”
Heffernan’s wife and coach, the former Irish international sprinter Marian Heffernan, is looking forward to seeing Rob at home a lot more from now on.
“I’m very proud of him, so happy that he’s finished – there’s a double meaning to finished!”
Meanwhile, his training partner Alex Wright (Leevale) was disqualified for three cautions for lifting in the men's 20km race walk at the World Championships in London.