"Why not keep going?": No finish line in sight for Rob Heffernan

After a disqualification, the Corkman was moved up to fifth in the 50km walk

ROb Heffernan, Olympics, Ireland,

Image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Rob Heffernan was in good form after his sixth-place finish in the men's 50km race walk in Rio on Friday. 

The Cork man's result was briefly upgraded to fifth after the race when bronze medalist Hirooki Arai was disqualified for a bump on Canadian Evan Dunfee, but Arai won his appeal and his placement stood.

Speaking to Richie McCormack of Off the Ball in the wake of the result, Heffernan was clear that he was happy with his finish, despite the fact that he felt on another day he may have been in with a chance of a medal.

"Sixth in the Olympics, I'm around long enough to appreciate how good that is. I'm disappointed I didn't win a medal, but that race can go any way. 

"When Yohan came off the front, I was like f**k yes, I'm going to win this, and then my legs started cramping up. Any movement at all hurts. My body was cramping from 36km or 38km on, I was just getting serious cramps and I had to stay conserved because, you appreciate what a sixth position is, that could become a DNF [did not finish]."

Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

With temperatures in excess of 30 degrees on the course during the grueling race, a number of athletes found it too difficult to finish, or struggled badly, forced to push through the pain barrier to cross the line.  

"I never take notice of the conditions because they're the same for everyone," said Heffernan. "Obviously, they're very, very tough, but they're tough for everyone [...] nobody's predisposed to competing in these conditions."

"I felt there was more there," added Heffernan, "but when I tried to up it I was starting to go into spasm and stuff. I still thought I was going to win it." 

With that level of confidence in his performance despite the problems he suffered during the race, Heffernan was in a buoyant mood, stating that he didn't think there was any reason he couldn't continue his athletic career.

"My training went really well in the last couple of months, and I'll obviously speak to [my wife] Marian and the kids and see are the kids happy. That's the most important thing to me, to see are we happy as a family. Why not, I'm in good shape, y'know? People always go on about retiring, but if you're able to be competitive and people are getting joy out of my performances and I'm getting joy, why not, why not keep going?"

Image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Heffernan will surely be delighted to be bumped up to fifth after the race, and it wouldn't be the first time either, after he was upgraded to a bronze medal in the wake of the Olympics in 2012. He has yet to receive that medal, but gave a little bit of information as to its current location, stating: "Yeah, Pat [Hickey] has the medal at the moment, so..."

However, he did add that there will be a special ceremony to award him the honour later this year in his native Cork.

"We're going to have a medal ceremony in Cork, and I hope everyone is going to be there in November. There's a big crew coming down from Donegal, and all of the country will celebrate it. Today is still very positive, so we'll have a good day. We'll have an Olympic ceremony in Ireland in a month or two and we'll get to enjoy it properly."