The last time Ireland won a medal in the World Athletics Championships it was a silver in 2009, before that it was another silver in 2003. Both those came in the women's 20km walk to Olive Loughnane and Gillian O'Sullivan respectively. The last time Ireland won a gold it was in 1995 by Sonia O'Sullivan in the women's 5000m, who had won silver in the 1500m two years earlier. The last time an Irish man won a medal of any description was in the first World Athletics Championships back in 1983, when Eamon Coghlan took gold in the 5000m.
That was until this morning.
Heffernan, from Cork, had been fourth in the Olympics last year in the 50km walk and at the start today as three men pulled away it looked like he could best hope for the same today. The three had been Mikhail Ryzhov and Ivan Noskov both of Russia and Jared Tallent of Australia. At 15km those three were 12 seconds ahead, but 10km later Rob Heffernan was with them. Then 10km further on with just 15km remaining the Irish man had assumed the lead ahead of the two Russians and Poland's Gregorz Sudal. Tennent was still hanging just behind.With about 10km remaining Heffernan had the sole lead, from Ryzhov, Tallent over took Noskov and Sudal and the order at the line was Heffernan, 62 seconds ahead of Ryzhov five seconds ahead of Tallent.
The Irishman's winning time of 3 hours, 37 minutes and 56 seconds is the fastest in the world this year by more than three minutes on the previous best. But two seconds slower than his Irish national record which he set in London last August.