President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny have paid tribute to Rob Heffernan after his gold medal success at the World Athletics Championships.

Heffernan's finished over a minute clear of the field in the 50km walk and his winning time of 3:37.56 was the fastest of the year.

The Cork man's victory is Ireland's first gold medal at the World Championship since Sonia O'Sullivan's victory in 1995.

President Higgins said: "I offer my congratulations to Rob Heffernan on his outstanding success in winning the World Championships 50km race walk in Moscow.

"All of us will share in this wonderful moment for Rob and his family, whom I met at Aras an Uachtaráin last year.

"Rob came so close to success in the London Olympics and now, through hard work and dedication, he has achieved all that he deserves.”

The President added: “My best wishes to all of the Irish team in Moscow, they will be uplifted by Rob’s great win.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: “I would like to congratulate Rob Heffernan on his wonderful achievement in winning gold at the World Athletics Championships today. I met Rob following his fourth-place finish in last year’s Olympics, and I am particularly pleased to see him win today."

"Through hard work and dedication, he has achieved all that he deserves." - President Higgins

Kenny continued: “This gold medal shows his tremendous strength of character and determination to grow stronger from each near miss.

"That today’s win was the fastest time in the world this year further highlights the scale of his achievement and I offer him the warmest congratulations on behalf of the people of Ireland.”

Writing on his Facebook page, fellow Irish walker Colin Griffin said: “Delighted for my good friend, team-mate and training partner Rob Heffernan.

"This gold medal was a long time in the making after years of hard work, setbacks and near misses.

“Rob is an inspiration to any sportsperson as to how to have the right mindset and competitive qualities to be a champion. This is a day to be remembered.”