Ireland’s most successful race walker Olive Loughnane has announced that she is to retire from athletics. The Loughrea woman competed at the highest level, and won a silver medal at the 2009 World Championships.
The thirty seven year old also represented Ireland at four Olympic Games, with her best placed finished coming in Beijing in 2008 when she came seventh. Herself and Gillian O’Sullivan brought the sport of race walking to a new audience here in this country and Loughnane admits that her role in raising the profile of the sport is one of her greatest achievements:
“Ten years ago people thought there was no difference between what we were doing and a person walking to the shop. But then as the awareness grew, so did people’s knowledge of what was involved, the training we put in and the speeds we were capable of. It was nice in recent years when I’d be out training with Rob Heffernan around Páirc Uí Chaoimh and people would be wishing us well ahead of the Olympics. People knew who we were and what we were doing. Things like that certainly helped put a smile on my face especially when I had another 15 or 16K ahead!”
Loughnane believes that the time is right for her to retire and hand the torch to a new generation: “My feeling was that I would quit while I was ahead and that I would know that the time was right from a personal and performance point of view. That time is now.”
She now hopes to get involved in the grassroots and coaching areas of the sport and help to encourage those that follow: “I expect to be involved in a representation type role. On a more micro level I like being involved with developing young kids and athletes. I get a kick out of visiting National Schools locally so that is something I am keen to continue. Coaching is something I might look at but I will probably take a step back from the elite side of things for the while.”