Heffernan warms up well for 50k
Olympics 20km walk: A typically courageous effort from Robert Heffernan wasn’t good enough to keep him in the medal hunt in the men’s 20km race walk, but does set him up nicely for next Saturday’s 50km event, now his preferred distance.
Indeed, Heffernan was effectively using the race as warm-up for the longer event, although that didn’t hold him back – the 34 year-old from Cork actually pressing the pace in the opening circuits, before finally losing contact with the leaders around 14km, and finishing a highly respectable ninth in 1:20:18, a season best, and the second fastest time of his career.
Winning a first Olympic men’s walking medal for China was 19 year-old Chen Ding, and in truly sensational style as well – his winning time of 1:18:46 an Olympic record, and actually saw waving and high-fiving spectators over the last 2km circuit. Wow!
China also took the bronze medal in Wang Zhen, who posted 1:19:25, although possibly surpassing their celebrations was that of Guatemala’s Erick Barrondo, who at just 21 won his country’s first ever Olympic medal in any sport, claiming the silver in 1:18:57.
Heffernan was well pleased with his performance - in what was his fourth Olympics and especially given his training was always geared towards the longer event – and made one last bold move to stay with the leaders at halfway, having briefly let some daylight open. Again he battled on as long as possible, and only lost contact for good at 14km when Chen made the first telling breakaway.
It seemed quite a pleasant evening for a walk along The Mall, around Constitution Hill, against the backdrop of Buckingham Palace and Queen Victoria Memorial – only not at the 15km per hour pace the field of 56 walkers were travelling.
Heffernan’s ninth place was also just one place short of his eighth place finish in Beijing four years ago, and certainly sets up him perfectly for the longer effort in six days time.