World 20km race walk silver medallist Gillian O'Sullivan and World Youth 5000m race walk silver medallist Ann Loughnane will lead Ireland’s biggest, and arguably strongest ever team, for the forthcoming IAAF World Cup of Race Walking which takes place in Naumburg, Germany, 1 – 2 May 2004.
O'Sullivan moves on from Tijuana
The World Cup will be the first serious test for O'Sullivan on the road to the Athens Olympics since she finished in fourth place in the first of this season’s IAAF Race Walking Challenge events in Tijuana, Mexico on 20 March. Her time of 1:29:54.86 on that occasion was way down on the top three places, which were taken Elisa Riguado of Italy (1:28:50.51), Spain’s Maria Vasco (1:29:06.25) and Portugal’s Susana Feitor (1:29:12.12).
Though O’Sullivan was dropped by the leading three at around the 16km point and she failed to finish on the podium, her time was one second faster than her winning performance last year at the Mexican event over the same course, and so any disappointment will have been tempered.
Olive Loughnane breakthrough
However, there is no doubting the up-turn in fortunes for another Irish race walker. O'Sullivan is joined in Naumburg by Sydney Olympian Olive Loughnane who made a world class breakthrough when finishing in fifth place in Tijuana in a time of 1:30:46.41.
Heffernan in fine form
The Irish men’s 20km team in Naumburg will be led by Athens bound Robert Heffernan and Jamie Costin, both of whom are on the come back trail from injury. Heffernan booked his Olympic place with a top class 6th place finish in Mexico and will be keen to improve on his last major championship finish when he took 8th place at the Europeans in Munich in 2002.
For Costin, the Irish record holder over 50km, the World Cup event will mark his first return to competition since the World Championships in Paris last August, and he will be keen to show that he is over the injury problems which have kept him off the road for over three months since.
Ann Loughnane - possible exam dilemma
World Youths silver medallist Ann Loughnane has been selected to lead the Junior women's team, although a clash with her exams in UCG may see her having to pull out of the team.
Jeff Cassin has been selected over 50km and he will be keen to improve on his best time of 4.01.01 which is breathtakingly close to the 4.00.00 limit which would see him make the Athens squad.
Team Ireland, IAAF World Race Walking Cup, Naumburg, Germany, May 1- 2 2004
20km Walk Women
Gillian O'Sullivan Farranfore/Maine Valley
Olive Loughnane Loughrea
20km Walk Men
Robert Heffernan Togher AC
Jamie Costin West Waterford AC
Colin Griffin Ballinamore AC
David Kidd St. Laurence O'Tooles AC
50km Walk Men
Jeff Cassin Finn Valley
Junior Women 10km
Ann Loughnane Craughwell AC
Catriona McMahon St Mary's, Limerick