Olive Loughnane with her silver medal in Berlin 2009 (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News

Ireland to send biggest-ever team to Saransk - IAAF World Race Walking Cup

Robert Heffernan and Olive Loughnane, both of whom took top eight finishes in the 20km Race Walk at the last Olympic Games in Beijing along with IAAF World Youth 5000m Race Walk champion Kate Veale have been named to lead the biggest ever Irish team IAAF World Race Walking Cup, Saransk, Russia, 12-13 May.

Heffernan is in his usual top class form, taking a recent fourth place in the 20km at the IAAF Race Walking Challenge in Rio Maior which was the Cork man's best ever performance at an IAAF Challenge event, finishing in a time of 1:21:28, which was only 14 seconds off a podium position.

Heffernan is targeting the 50km Race Walk at this summer's Olympic Games in London and will use the 20km race in Russia to sharpen up and gauge his competitive progress.

Heffernan will be joined in the 20km event by Brendan Boyce who has already achieved the 50km qualification standard for the Olympics. Boyce has been in great form lately setting a personal best of 3:57:53 for 50km in the Dudince Grand Prix which should secure his selection for London.

Such is the depth of 50km Race Walking in Ireland at the moment that the selectors may yet be required to leave one qualifier at home.

Ireland's two representatives at the Beijing Olympics, Jamie Costin and Colin Griffin, each with best times just a shade over 3:50 had both expected to have qualified by now but a string of injury problems (Costin) and disqualifications (Griffin) has meant that neither has the standard at the moment and Saransk will be a case of all or nothing for the pair.

Last weekend Griffin and Costin came through a 20km race in Naumburg clocking 1:24:40 and 1:25:25 respectively which augers well for Saransk. 50km debutant Michael Doyle is the third of the Irish athletes competing in the 50km event.

In the women’s 20km, 2009 World Championship silver medallist Olive Loughnane and Laura Reynolds fly the Irish flag. Loughnane will target a solid confidence boosting performance as she prepares for the Olympic Games and will relish the opportunity to test her reserve against top international competition. She has always shone in Russia, making her international breakthrough at the European Cup in Cheboksary 2003 with an eight place finish and she took sixth at the 2008 IAAF World Cup at the same venue.

Reynolds set an impressive personal best of 1:34:40 in Naumburg last weekend and has achieved the Olympic B standard on numerous occasions and has an excellent opportunity to achieve the 1:33:30 A standard in Saransk.

2011 World Youth 5000m Race Walk Gold medallist Kate Veale leads the team in the junior women’s 10km. The 17-year-old native of Waterford has been in great form this season having won the 10km event in the Lugano Grand Prix back last month and of course took bronze at the last European Cup of Race Walking in Portugal. Veale will be joined on the start line by Irish teammate Emma Prenderville.

In the junior men’s race James Treanor and Luke Hickey are set to compete and both athletes will target personal best performances.

Patsy McGonagle, who will manage the Irish team for his third Olympic Games in London said, "This is the strongest team we have ever sent to a World Cup and the fact that we have so many qualifiers already for London and with the possibility of Reynolds and either Costin, Griffin being added to the list makes it a very exciting trip."

Team Manager and Chairman of High Performance for Athletics Ireland Ray Flynn, said, "We are living in a golden period for the event in Ireland and our two best chances for athletics medals in London are probably Heffernan and Loughnane. The IAAF World Cup is a crucial part of the preparation process and I am really looking forward to our athletes racing in front of crowds of 50-100,000 in Saransk."

Shaun Gallagher for the IAAF

Irish Team for IAAF World Race Walking Cup Saransk

20km Men
Robert Heffernan
Brendan Boyce

50km Men
Jamie Costin
Colin Griffin
Michael Doyle

20km Women
Olive Loughnane
Laura Reynolds

10km Junior Men
James Traenor
Luke Hickey

10km Junior Women
Kate Veale
Emma Prenderville