Five-time Olympian Rob Heffernan has announced his retirement from race walking.

Regarded as one of Ireland's most decorated athletes, Heffernan’s career highlight was arguably winning the World 50km Race Walk title in Moscow in 2013.

In a career than spanned three decades, the 40-year-old won bronze over 20km at the European Championships in Barcelona in 2010 and Olympic bronze over 50km at London 2012.

His wife Marian also competed in the London Games in 2012, making them the only husband and wife team to represent Ireland at the Olympics.

Heffernan will take up a new position with Bank of Ireland as Retail Banking Ambassador in the Munster Region.

"Thanks for all the lovely messages this morning on the announcement of my official retirement from Athletics, it was an honour to represent my country over 20 years," he said on social media.

"Special thanks to my wife and family for their support. Looking forward to the next chapter of my life working with Bank of Ireland & working with the next generation of Irish Athletes."

Later, speaking to RTÉ News, the Cork native said: "There's a bit of closure on it today, it feels a little bit like a death as you become very reflective on the stuff that you've done. I've been waiting to come to this point for a few years. 

"After Rio, my manager Derry (McVeigh) spoke about this day, but after I finished fifth I decided I was still there. In the last year or so, I decided I was still there but that animal wasn't there, the same love, the same desire, the same passion, the same enjoyment, the same fulfilment I was getting out of the sport even though I still did all of the training, just wasn't there.    

"On a professional level it just wasn't there.  It's the right time to move aside. I never wanted to be a journeyman. I still went out at at a fairly high level. I finished eight in London (2017 Worlds)."       

CEO of Athletics Ireland Hamish Adams paid tribute to the achievements of Heffernan.

"Rob has represented Ireland on the world stage with distinction for over 20 years," he said.

"Rob has spent his athletic career working hard, getting results and consistently performing under pressure whilst at the same he has given so much back to young and aspiring athletes in this country."