But even as he accepts latest honours world 50km champion has moved on
It says everything about his frame of mind that three months after becoming world champion Rob Heffernan is already stuck in the future, his gold medal success in the 50km walk last August drifting into the past.
That’s not saying he’s walked off the celebration circuit just yet: in Dublin for the National Athletics Awards, which inevitably saw Heffernan named Athlete of the Year, plus Race Walker of the Year, there’ll be a few more salutes before the curtain is drawn on his amazing performance in Moscow.
He’s just back from Monte Carlo and the IAAF Gala at the weekend, when Heffernan spent some time alone with Marian, his wife and coach, for the first time since Moscow.
But there are big changes coming on, with Marian now seven months pregnant with their next child, while Heffernan is already building not just towards his own future in the 50km walk but also to that of his event itself.
He’ll be 36 in February but his graph of improvement, he firmly believes, is still pointing upwards. The targets are already clear, too, starting with the European Championships in Zurich next summer, and taking in the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Privileged position “I’m still in a privileged position that I can still improve, knowing what I know now,” he says. “So why not keep going? Because once you’re stopped, you’re stopped. I’m still hungry for more, and because physically I’m still able to do it, why not go on, and try to back up this year?
“And I know I’ll be going out next year with everyone else thinking ‘we’re going to take him’. “I love that. It’s a new challenge, not going in as underdog. You’re in there on top of the pile. And I look at other athletes that produce medals year in, year out, and come back mentally strong, in any sport.
“Then I look at some athletes in Ireland and they hit one high and come back down. And I don’t want to be one of them. Like the typical Irish thing, ‘Oh, your man went on the beer for a year, or whatever’.
“To be honest, I was sick of all the publicity stuff after two months. Luckily, Derry (McVeigh), my manager, has looked after everything. I think the win still kind of seems in the public eye, but at the same time I’ve been at home, the family man, kicking around with the kids.
“But it was non-stop, something on nearly all the time, and I could have been 10 times busier if it wasn’t managed. But I’m delighted to be back into the training routine, to be honest. With any job, you want to get back to reality. I’m a sportsman. I’m not a TV personality or a politician.”