Back in 2012 when an 18-year-old Sarah Lavin competed at the World Junior Championships in Barcelona observers across the country were constantly comparing her to Derval O’Rourke. Just two years previously O’Rourke had won a superb silver medal at the European Championships where she had ran a Personal Best and National Record of 12.65s. When O’Rourke retired in 2014 many thought that Lavin would quickly take up the mantle and go onto make major global championships at senior level for years to come but it hasn’t been plain sailing for the Limerick woman.
Lavin missed the Olympics in 2016 through injury and battled with many more in the intervening years before running her fastest time since 2014 last summer and qualifying for the Olympics in Tokyo. Remarkably, when Lavin steps out onto the track at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday it will be her first world outdoor championships at senior level.
“It’s a dream,” says Lavin, beaming with delight from her accommodation on the University of Oregon campus a stones throw from the stadium. “I’m literally living my dream and I’m so grateful for it. I’m not in any way complacent and obviously I want so much more from a performance standpoint, but it’s really, really special here.”
Sarah Lavin looks to do “something special” at World Championships
It has been a remarkable season for the physiotherapist who is now a full-time athlete. Lavin has ran three PB’s this summer, most recently lowering her best to 12.84s at the Cork City Sports and comes into the championships full of confidence. Despite recent success she is certainly not resting on her laurels.
“That doesn’t mean anything once I step out on the track, and nothing is given to anyone, particularly in hurdles. It’s so technical and you have to do everything really, really exact in the moment.
“Everything is blanked, it doesn’t matter what anyone has done up to this point, you’re at a championship now, you’re here and you know what you’re capable of. You just have to go do it.”
Lavin describes being compared to O’Rourke from a young age as “both a blessing and a burden.” As she gets ever closer to the National Record of 12.65s she feels it has pushed her on.
“We’ve had very few world champions in any sport in Ireland and to have someone in my event to have been compared to as times progressed, that’s made my standards really, really high. It puts perspective on every performance I do.”
The heats of the 100m Hurdles take place at 7:20pm Irish Time on Saturday evening with the semi-finals and final early on Monday morning. Lavin feels that she will need to run under 13s to make it out of the first round and then produce another PB to make the final.
“I know I’m capable, I’m in the best shape of my life but I have to do it. It’s not just a roll of a dice, it’s about being in that moment, doing everything right in that moment and then hopefully I do something special.”
Lavin, her coach Noelle, family, friends, and athletics fans across the four corners of the country will be hoping to see that “something special” this weekend on one of the biggest stages of them all.
The World Athletics Championships are broadcast live on BBC TV and live streamed on the World Athletics YouTube