Olympic race-walker Rob Heffernan said he was feeling great today after his Olympic heroics — but added: “I can barely walk.”
The Togher athlete poured every ounce of effort into his bid for Olympic glory in the 50kilometre walk on Saturday.
He said: “My body is just shattered. I can barely walk. But I feel very proud.”
Rob was to fly into Dublin today with the rest of the Olympic team, and said he’d probably get the bus back to Cork.
“I’m just looking forward to a rest, spending some time with the kids and we’re going away on holiday next week.”
Rob said he was initially gutted at finishing outside the medals, but now realises the significance of his achievement.
The 34-year-old broke the Irish record by an unbelievable seven minutes and 36 seconds, spurred on by massive support on the streets of London.
He finished just 31 seconds short of the medal he had coveted so dearly.
At any other Olympics, his time would have secured a medal.
But the disappointment soon faded when Rob began to realise that his efforts were the toast of the nation.
On Saturday, about an hour after he embraced his wife, Marian — herself an Olympian in the 4x400m relay— the Cork couple strolled past an Irish bar in London — and the place erupted. Punters inside the bar spilled onto the footpath to give the Togher Olympian an ovation that he would never forget.
Rob’s sister Rhonda, who was with him after the race, said: “Everyone just came out of this bar and went crazy. It was unbelievable. They were asking for photos of Rob, singing and cheering. Rob was just overwhelmed by the support. He couldn’t believe that people wanted photos with him. It was then he started to realise what he had achieved. People are so proud of him.”
Endless hours of training, strict diets, sleeping in an altitude tent above his bed, sacrificing a social life and missing family occasions all culminated in the performance of his life on Saturday.
The emotions of the day were heightened too by thoughts of Rob’s mum, Maureen, who passed away suddenly last August.
“It’s coming up the one-year anniversary and that was in our minds. Mum was looking down on Rob for sure,” said Rhonda.
The chairman of Cork City Sports, Tony O’Connell, said Rob’s greatest achievement was bringing a minority sport to the forefront of the public’s mind and creating a greater understanding of the rigours and technical athleticism of race walking.
Lord Mayor Cllr John Buttimer described Rob as an inspiration, saying:
“I was devastated for him that he didn’t get a medal, but he is a fantastic role model.”
Rob has already set his sights on his fifth Olympics in Brazil in 2016.
Meanwhile, among the other athletes to do Cork proud were Olive Loughnane, who finished 13th in the 20k walk on Saturday; sailor Peter O’Leary and hurdler Derval O’Rourke.
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