Defending World Champion Rob Heffernan to lead Irish Team to World Champs
Defending world 50km Race Walk champion Robert Heffernan will lead an Irish team of 11 athletes at the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Beijing on August 22nd-30th alongside rising stars Thomas Barr and Mark English.
Heffernan (Togher AC) famously won gold on the streets of Moscow in 2013 to become one of only 5 Irish athletes to take a world championships medal. The 37-year-old Cork man is rounding into shape having completed an altitude training camp in Ifrane in Morocco.
Some niggling injuries had interrupted some of Heffernan’s preparations earlier in the year but he is in a positive mindset.
“I feel good,” said Heffernan. My training has gone well the last month if I’m in a good place mentally and physically in Beijing that I can give a good performance. Hopefully I’ll have a good result again. I want to win a medal, I’ve always wanted to win a medal, if I can control what I can do and deliver a performance.”
Heffernan will be joined in the walks by Letterkenny’s Brendan Boyce (50km) and Leevale’s Alex Wright (20km and 50km). Boyce finished 25th in 2013 in 3:54:24 and set a new personal best this year of 3:48:55 in Dudince. Alex Wright will be competing in his first major championships for Ireland.
Barr looking to get the best out of himself
World Universities 400m Hurdles champion Thomas Barr goes in with realistic expectations of making the world final. Barr (Ferrybank AC) is currently ranked 10th in the world and his first task to will be to make it to the semi-final and then build from there. Barr has stepped up a level this year running in numerous Diamond League meetings including his Irish record of 48.65 in Rome.
Barr commented: "If I can keep going as I am and get the best out of myself, there's no saying what will happen in Beijing. The final is where I want to be. Each day is going to be like a final, it could be two or three semis, I’m going to be going hell for leather in each race."
English looks to build on European success
Mark English (UCD) also goes into Beijing with the same aspirations in the 800m. The two lap specialist bounced back from a disappointing European U23 Athletics Championships to finish fourth in the London Anniversary Games in a season’s best, and Olympic qualifying time, of 1:45.49. English didn't make it out of the rounds at the world championships in Moscow in 2013 but has medalled at his last two senior championships – bronze at the European outdoors and silver at the European indoors.
"I can’t forget what happened last time,” said English on the world championships in 2013 “.I need to be aware of those lads. Moscow was tactics, not really preparation. I was in great shape. I’m going to go out there and give it a blast. I think I’m back to my old best, there’s a carbon copy of where I was last year, maybe a little better, the lack of expectation plays into my hands because you saw how I did in Zurich. You need that bit of luck to go your way.”
Women’s Representation in Pole Vault & Steeplechase
Tori Pena (Finn Valley) competes once again in the Pole Vault and will look to build on her experience in 2013 where she didn't progress best the qualification rounds. Kerry O’Flaherty (Newcastle) and Michelle Finn (Leevale) make their world championship debuts in the 3,000m steeplechase. Finn was a member of the women's European cross country team that won bronze in Samokov last December.
4x400m Relay take to global stage
The last time an Irish 4x400m team lined up at a world championships was in 2003. Last summer the team (Brian Gregan, Mark English, Richard Morrissey, Thomas Barr) made the final of the European Athletics Championships setting a new Irish record of 3.01.67. They currently have a season's best 3:05.07 (Brian Gregan, Thomas Barr, Craig Lynch, Mark English).
Preparation for Rio Olympics
The Irish team flew to Hong Kong this morning for a 13-day holding camp before heading into the athletes village in Beijing. This will replicate preparations for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next year.
High Performance Director Kevin Ankrom on Team Ireland: “I see these championships as the ultimate dress rehearsal for Rio. Overall I am looking for the team to deliver performance on the world stage which they can build on for the Olympic Games next year"
Ankrom added: "Robert is a seasoned competitor, he's been there and delivered the goods with his win in 2013. He will be looking to put himself right back there again this year and he's got the capabilities to do it. For raising stars Mark and Thomas this is there opportunity to demonstrate they can deliver on the World stage, go through the rounds and make their respective finals.”
Quota athletes still in contention
There are a number of athletes, Kelly Proper (200m), Sara Treacy (3,000m steeplechase), Ciara Everard (800m) and Ben Reynolds (110m hurdles) that are still in contention for selection under the new IAAF quota system athletes. Ciara Mageean is also in the quota over 1500m but has decided not to be selected as she is focusing on returning to full fitness after a recent injury. Their selection be announced on Wednesday morning following invitation from IAAF.
Initial Team selection
Thomas Barr (Ferrybank) 400m Hurdles
Mark English (UCD) 800m
Kerry O’Flaherty (Newcastle), 3,000m steeplechase
Michelle Finn (Leevale) 3,000m steeplechase
Tori Pena (Finn Valley) Pole Vault
Alex Wright (Leevale) 20km/50km Race Walk
Robert Heffernan (Togher) 50km Race Walk
Brendan Boyce (Letterkenny) 50km Race Walk
4x400m relay (Thomas Barr, Mark English, Brian Gregan, Brian Murphy, Richard Morrissey (both Crusaders), Timmy Crowe (Clonliffe Harriers)