ROBERT HEFFERNAN Q&Aon July 30, 2012
This Saturday the 4th of August at 17.00 our very own Robert Heffernan will wear the Irish singlet again for what will be his 4th Olympic Games.
The 34-year old athlete joined Togher Athletics Club back when he was a mere 13 years of age. He 1st started off athletics in Colaiste Chriost Ri, like many others In the School team they also ran for the Club under the tutelage of Mr (John) Hayes.He and his team mates enjoyed success both on the track and X-Country field. Rob showed he had the talent to compete at National level especially in X-Country where he preformed well at the Intermediate level and he won a couple of Novice Titles.It was not until the age of 17 that his faith would be set. The school held trials for the upcoming South Munsters Championship, and Rob gave the 3k Race Walk “a go”.
The next few years Rob was both running and walking. His big break came in the 1998 National Indoor Championships where he won his 1st National Senior title. This would start off an Irish Record run of fourteen 5k Indoor titles and still counting.
A year later he would finish in 70th position in the 20k World Race Walking Cup.This event was one of his first encounter’s with an International field. He soon realised that training and taking care of himself had to be amplified if he was to have any chance against the rest of the world.
The 2000 Sydney Olympics was Rob’s first taste of thee sporting event all us dreamers out there spend our lives chasing. A whole new experience for the then 22-year-old Cork man. Rob finished his 1st Olympics in a credible 28th position. After this event he was asked to train alongside the Race Walking Legend, Poland’s Robert Korzeniowski.
The Athens Olympics arrived 4 years later but this event would not turn out to be so memorable for the Togher Athlete. He was DSQ from the event. The Race Walking Judges took a dislike to his style and one year later the same scenario conspired against the Togher man and he was DSQ from the World Champs in Helsinki.
On to 2007 and this was a year Rob certainly looks back on fondly. In what many people say was his finest performance he captured an awesome 6th place finish at the World’s in Osaka.Rob was finally now been considered a real and realistic medal contender at a major Championships.
The last Olympics were held in the Birds Nest Beijing and again Rob had qualified for the 20k walk. This was certainly a different experience for him now because the media attention was starting to hype him up as one of Ireland’s best hopeful’s for an Olympic medal. We all bundled in to his house in the wee hours of the night to watch the race. He came close but did not have enough in the end and he finished up in a brilliant 8th place position. Its kind of crazy if you think about it. Before everyone would have just been delighted to see him qualify for one of these Championships but nowadays the stakes are raised higher, the bar is set so high that everyone can see him getting closer and closer to his dream medal.
2010 saw the European Championships been held in Barcelona. Rob had now qualified for both the 20k & 50k race walk. The Togher Entourage headed over for what has to be, certainly mine anyway, the greatest week in the Clubs history. 1st up saw Rob line up in the 20k. On the 1k course Rob was in the mix from start to finish, narrowly missing out on a medal and finishing up in 4th position. Madly enough 3 days later he raced again in the 50k, again coming so close to finish in another 4th place position.
This brings us onto this week. What will be a huge week for everyone involved with and associated with Rob and his family.The 20k is 1st up and Rob did tell me a few weeks ago that he will be doing this race in preparation for the 50k. I also remember him saying this back in 2010 so do not be so surprised if he pulls out something big on Saturday evening. The course is set down below and it is a 2k loop.
Full Details HERE
Q1 Who’s your best friend in Athletics??? (Apart from Mar of course)
ROB The one and only Ray Flynn
Q2 Who was your sporting idols growing up?? (Can be Athletics or any other sport)
ROB A few GAA heads but I knew no different ,even the brown shirts were brain washed.
Q3 If you were not involved in athletics, what other sport would you have liked to try your hand at??
Q4 How is the body at the moment? Are you where you want to be at this time so close to the Olympics?
ROB When your training hard you will always have some little problem’s but you just manage it and get on with the training.I’am very lucky to have Liam (O Reilly) with me full-time, he is a great masseur and keeps me in one piece.
Q5 These next few days leading into Race, how do you occupy your time and mind, Do you get nervous anymore?
ROB I always get nervous, if you didn’t there would be something wrong . Your getting ready for war so its fight of flight, its how you deal with the nerves.
Q6 What would you say is your best result/achievement in athletics thus far in your career?
ROB Qualifying for the Osaka World Championships 10 weeks after my hernia ops in 2006. I was misdiagnosed and was stone broke and missed the whole year and I was going to be thrown off the Sports Councils Funding Scheme if i didn’t get an ‘A’ standard. Marian was a massive support to me at this time and it is no coincidence that my life took an upward turn after this .I was very low that year and learnt a lot of lessons and moved on to bigger and better things. The biggest results are not always the publicised ones.Meeting Marian made me see a lot of things and it’s why we excelled together.People make good and bad choices growing up. succesful people learn from their mistakes and move on so that result in Denmark was the start of a new journey for me and Marian as a team.
Q7 Do you find there is added pressure on you for this Olympics, It is as close to a home Olympics as we can get and you are one of a very few Irish Athletes seen as real medal contenders???
ROB I set high standards for myself. I train and prepare better than anybody so the Olympics are the rewards from my endeavors. Of course there is pressure but that’s high performance sport and i thrive on it.
Q8 God forbid it will not happen in the near future, but one day you will have to hang up your racers, what happens then for Rob Heffernan? What would you like to do? Can you see yourself been involved in athletics in some aspect?
ROB I have a lot to offer Athletics and love the sport but we will see. There are lots of politics and “hanger ons” to deal with. I would love to have a High Performance Centre of excellence in Cork and develop racewalking but what ever I end up doing I will be successful because I have a huge work ethic and I’m motivated, its in my nature
Q9 What one bit of advice would you give to our young Irish athletes aspiring to be an Olympian one day.
ROB Be realistic about your goals. Be organised, focused and willing to work hard to get them. Surround yourself with positive people. Realise its important to be a good person and success can quickly be forgotten by others. Very few people have the application, honesty and single-mindedness to succeed at the top-level of Athletics. Decide what kind of athlete you want to be and work at that and be happy.
Q10 Finally, What is the goal for London, What will Robert Heffernan be happy with come the end of the games??
ROB If I give it my all and im healthy things will be good.
I would like to thank Rob for taking time out these precious few days leading up to the Championships to talk to us.
So there we have it. Saturday evening is approaching fast on what will be a momentous day for the Club and our Star Athlete and all who know him.Remember that only 5 Irish athletes have won an Olympic medal of some colour since 1924 and the last man to win one was John Tracy back in the 1984 Marathon.
What ever the results are over the next 2 weekends, I know that Rob will be giving it his all and that’s all you can ask for. But we are allowed to dream right?? Everything he has trained for, overcome and accomplished in his Athletics career pales in comparison to what is possibly on the cards this Saturday and next Saturday. And I for one can not wait to see the outcome. Rob to me is many things, a good dad and husband, madman to do what he does, club team-mate, mentor, an idol but most of all a friend and we at TOGHER AC……………….