Last night, Irish race walker Rob Heffernan received his 2012 London Olympics bronze medal at his hometown Cork. The ceremony was organized by Cork City Council and Olympic Council of Ireland and was held at Cork City Hall’s concert hall.
Heffernan’s Bitter Sweet Story
Mr. Heffernan was the forth person who crossed the finish line at London Olympic games, but everything changed when Russian athlete Sergey Kirdyapkin was disqualified out of the race for doping.
However, this was far from an easy win for him, since he was also accused of doping. The doping allegations was due to the amount of hydroxyethyl starch, in his blood an ingredient of a drug used on him during his hip surgery.
It took some time, until Heffernan’s name became clear, during which he experienced an awful lot of stress, since he was afraid of becoming known as a fraud and a cheater.
Medal Finally Finds its Owner
Rob Heffernan finally got his Olympic happy ending when, last night he received his medal at Cork City Hall surrounded by people who loved him the most. The two and a half hour ceremony started with his friends retelling their memories and emphasizing Heffernan’s stubbornness, single-mindedness and dedication to the sport.
Olympic athletes such as Thomas Barr, Garry O’Donovan (who won a silver medal for Ireland at this year’s Olympic games along with his brother Paul), and Natalya Coyle attended this ceremony and commended Mr.Heffernan for his bravery and commitment to the sport. Irish Rugby Legend Anthony Foley whose recent untimely death broke hearts of a nation, was also commemorated at this ceremony.
After the speeches Heffernan walked to the stage along with his wife Marian, and received a warm welcome from the audience in form of a long standing ovation. Heffernan who was noticeably excited described the ceremony as a dream coming true and that he was very honored.
Heffernan talked about how he made many sacrifices to stand where he stands today, and how he couldn not be with his family at moments of joy and grief, because of his commitment to his sport.
There is no Place like Home
He thanked the people of Ireland for all their support, and went as far as describing Irish people as being passionate about sports more than any nation in the whole wide world.
As the Lord Mayor of Cork mentioned Mr. Heffernan insisted on receiving his medal at his hometown Cork, which shows his loyalty to his people and his roots.
Heffernan spent sometime shaking hands with the members of the audience and taking pictures with them. He was also awarded a cup by the Lord Mayor of Cork, which compelled him to thank the people of Cork again. The ceremony officially ended when Mr. Heffernan and his wife Marian left the stage among audience’s warm applause.
P.S: I was more than lucky to get the opportunity to attend this ceremony and witness this glorious and triumphant event first hand. Since Robert Heffernan was the first Irish athlete being awarded with an Olympic medal at his home soil, I could see that it meant more to him than receiving a Gold medal elsewhere.