Sunday 17 February 2019

Heffernan has Moscow hopes

Ireland's Robert Heffernan, right, and Jianbo Li, China. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Ireland's Robert Heffernan, right, and Jianbo Li, China. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

WHILE youth dominates the 11-strong Irish team in Moscow for the World Athletics Championships starting this weekend, Ireland's best hope of a medal looks like veteran race walker Robert Heffernan, now aged 35.

Heffernan improves with age and last summer pulled off the performance of his life at the London Olympics when he finished fourth in the 50km walk in a new Irish record of 3 hrs 37 mins 54 secs. That time would lead this year's rankings by over three minutes.

Last month, Heffernan underlined his current form with a new Irish 3000m record in Cork. With fourth places in two European Championships as well as in London, a big medal is long overdue for the Togher athlete. He competes next Wednesday along with his training partner Brendan Boyce in the 50km walk.

The third walker on the team is Laura Reynolds, who goes in the women's 20km walk next Tuesday.

Mark English, aged just 20, is an outside hope of a medal in the 800m and starts the Irish campaign in Moscow with early morning heats on Saturday.

English has competed at major competitions since he was 17 and only a few weeks ago, came close to breaking the Irish 800m record in London with a superb time of 1 min 44.84 secs. Joining him in the 800m is Paul Robinson, who has run 1:45.85 this season.

Pole vaulter Tori Pena is another improving athlete and if she can get close to her Irish record of 4.60m, she could make the final in a major championships for the first time.

Clonliffe's Brian Gregan improved his personal best for 400m to 45.53 last June and was fifth at the World University Games. A place in the semi-finals in this highly competitive event would be a good result for Gregan.

In the equally competitive women's 800m, Roseanne Galligan, who broke Sonia O'Sullivan's Irish 800m record with a time of 2:00.58 a few weeks ago, will do very well to progress from the heats.

Jennifer Carey, in the 400m, competes at her first major games, while in the marathon, Maria McCambridge lines out in Saturday's women's race, where the summer heat will be a huge factor.

A week later, Paul Pollock goes in the men's event. An interesting fact about the men's marathon rankings: of the top 100 in the world, all but 18 are from either Kenya or Ethiopia.

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