World Championships 2013: Robert Heffernan makes history for Ireland

Hefferman took gold in the 50km walk race

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The Independent Online

Robert Heffernan has become the Republic of Ireland's first male world champion in 30 years after taking gold in the 50km race walk in Moscow.

The 35-year-old, who came fourth at the London Olympics last summer, strode away from the Russian home favourite Mikhail Ryzhov in the closing kilometres to win in a world-leading 3hr 37min 56sec.

Heffernan was one warning away from disqualification but held his nerve and won by a comfortable margin of 62 seconds.

He follows in the footsteps of the last Irish gold medallist, Eamonn Coghlan, who won the 5,000m at the first World Championships in Helsinki in 1983, and becomes Ireland's first world champion of either sex since Sonia O'Sullivan triumphed over 5,000m in Gothenburg 18 years ago.

Heffernan said: "It's surreal, it's just a great feeling. When I came into the stadium it just felt like an out-of-body experience. It's hard to take it all in at the moment. I'm delighted."

He had arrived at the World Championships in fine form and was considered an Irish medal hope, although few could have predicted he would take the gold.

In a composed performance, he was with the leading pack at the halfway mark and, when that group broke up, he went toe-to-toe with Ryzhov.