Rob Heffernan comes sixth in 50km Walk

Rob Heffernan failed to bring home a medal but delivered yet another excellent performance at a major championships as he crossed the line in sixth place in the Olympic 50km Walk.

The Cork man was elevated to fifth when Japenese walker Hirooki Arai, who finished in third, was disqualified after an appeal deemed him guilty of bumping, and Heffernan was handed fifth place.

However, another appeal saw that decision reversed, meaning that Heffernan’s original sixth-place finish stood.

The Ballincollig star was right in contention for much of the race but couldn’t live with the pace in extremely hot conditions, eventually finishing two minutes and 57 seconds behind in a time of 3:43:55.

Reigning world champion Matej Toth of Slovakia took gold ahead of Australia’s Jared Tallent with Arai eventually getting his bronze.

Heffernan looked comfortable as part of a group of nine chasing early leader Yohann Diniz, who opened up a 90-second lead but began to be pegged back as he dealt with problems in the heat, with Dunfee taking over the lead at the 35km mark after the Frenchman briefly stopped on the course.

But the Canadian couldn’t hang on either, and as the pace began to quicken, Heffernan began to struggle with the pace himself, dropping away from the leaders as Tallent surged to the front with 10km to go.

Tallent quickly built what looked like a decisive lead, with Toth and Arai apparently left to battle for silver, but the Australian ran out of gas and was overtaken by the fast-finishing Slovakian with just over a lap of the 2km circuit remaining.

The Australian held off Arai and a heroic walk from Tallent to take silver.

Diniz paid a huge price for his early pace – in addition to his initial stoppage the world record holder collapsed to the ground twice, but each time picked himself up and incredibly dragged himself to the line in eighth place.

Letterkenny’s Brendan Boyce also delivered a fine performance as he came home in 19th place out of the 80 runners that started the race.

Ireland’s third competitor, Alex Wright, started the race well and was also in contention for a top-20 finish before the conditions got the better of him and he withdrew shortly after the 30km mark.

Speaking after the race, Heffernan said: “At 36-38km I thought I was going to win it.

“I got bad cramps then but it’s still a magnificent performance. I’m still there or thereabouts so you’ve to take the positives.

“This is the only day of the year that counts. Obviously, I would have liked to have won a medal. I love training in the summer and I love training for these championships. It’s all about tunnel vision and getting ready for the big day.

“I’ve got such great support and messages from everyone on Facebook and Twitter and it helps when you’re working hard in that last 10 kilometres.I would have loved to have won a medal for them but it’s still a great performance.”

Boyce during in action today.
Brendan Boyce during in action today.

Boyce was delighted with his top 20 performance and felt he got his race plan spot on. “I stuck to my race plan. I went off conservatively for the first 10km. I got in with a good group and it held together for about 25-35km and then people went into their own zones but I was always catching people.

“Physically my energy was good, my energy was good. My hip flexors got at me at 35km and cost me probably ten seconds per kilometre pace wise but I didn’t hit the wall. I’m delighted with how I’ve progressed.”

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