Irish race walker Rob Heffernan has announced his retirement following a decorated career which spanned 25 years.
The 40-year-old Cork native became the first Irish athlete to compete in five Olympics at Rio 2016 although the highpoint of a glittering career came in 2013 when he won gold for the 50km walk at the World Athletics Championships in Moscow.
The Togher A.C. athlete was also upgraded to the Olympic bronze medal from the 50km walk in London 2012, having originally finishing fourth, getting his just medal reward in 2016 after the Russian Sergey Kirdyapkin was disqualified and stripped of his medal for doping offences.
He also retires with a bronze medal won over 20km at the European Championships in Barcelona in 2010; his wife Marian also competed in the London Olympics in 2012, making them the only husband and wife team to represent Ireland at the Olympics.
“After a lifetime spent dedicated to elite athletics I am delighted to be making the transition to a second career,” he said. “Retiring from a professional sporting career can be a struggle for many athletes but I have been working with my management agent Derry McVeigh over the last year to ensure that I make this transition as smooth as possible.
Heffernan had spent the winter months participating in Dancing With The Stars Ireland yet there was some suggestion he would return for Tokyo 2020 but has instead agreed to take up a new position with Bank of Ireland as Retail Banking Ambassador in the Munster Region.
“I believe the skills I acquired on the track such as teamwork, commitment and leadership will stand me in good stead as I take up my next challenge with Bank of Ireland.”
“Rob has represented Ireland on the world stage with distinction for over 20 years,” said Hamish Adams, CEO of Athletics Ireland. “He spent his athletic career working hard, getting results and consistently performing under pressure whilst at the same he has given so much back to young and aspiring athletes in this country. Rob’s competitive career may be over, but we are delighted that his professional relationship with Athletics Ireland will endure and we will be announcing details of his new consultancy role with us in the coming weeks.”
Just last year he helped Ireland clinch a first ever third place finish in the 20km Race Walking Cup in the Czech Republic alongside Alex Wright and Cian McManamon.
Heffernan’s Rio appearance left him the only Irish athlete to compete in five consecutive Olympics (Irish sailor David Wilkins also competed in five, though not consecutive): he’s finished third (in London), sixth (in Rio), and also boasts an eighth place in the 20km walk in Beijing, and a ninth place in the 20km walk in London.
With his 2013 World Championship gold, and 2010 European Championships bronze, he retires with the complete set of championship medals, a rare thing by any sporting standards.
Cork City partied hard the night of Rob’s homecoming after winning the 2013 World Championships in Moscow
“Walking Tall”, Heffernan’s autobiography is a fantastic read and highly recommended.
From his tough childhood, battles with injury, depression and abject poverty to persistent confrontations with Athletics Ireland and the Irish Sports Council to help fund his quest for glory, Heffernan details a story of grit and determination captured through Heffernan’s uniquely “Cork” sense of humour.
It can be purchased in all good bookstores as well as Amazon.