No time to dwell on lack of medals in Glasgow with Olympic Games on the horizon

The Irish women’s relay quartet and Sarah Lavin in the 60m hurdles were the highlights at the World Athletics Indoor Championships

Every country has its own definition of success on the major championship stage, and in track and field the common currency is invariably in the colour or amount of medals won.

Despite two impressive fifth-place finishes, one national record, and Sharlene Mawdsley’s widely considered harsh disqualification after qualifying for the 400m final, in truth no Irish medal hope came close to materialising at the 19th edition of the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow at the weekend.

The question then is what exactly merits a success. Given the size of the 10-person Irish team – one man, nine women, contesting only six events – those hopes were always slim to begin with. Still the result further lengthens the already 18-year wait on this stage going back to Derval O’Rourke’s gold medal run in the 60m hurdles in Moscow in 2006.

Of the eight Irish athletes currently qualified automatically for the Paris Olympics this summer, only Sarah Healy and Sarah Lavin made themselves available for Glasgow, while the likes of Rhasidat Adeleke, Ciara Mageean, Andrew Coscoran and Brian Fay, all for differing reasons, chose to stay away.


Adeleke’s absence, while not unexpected, left some sense of what might have been, especially had she been part of the women’s 4x400m relay which finished fifth in Sunday’s final after breaking the national record to get there (although they were still just over 2½ seconds off bronze).

In terms of country size and population and sporting tradition, Ireland is most often compared to New Zealand when it comes to these events. As it happened New Zealand also sent a team of just 10 athletes, six men and four women, yet they ended up third on the medal table, winning two gold and two silver, to finish behind United States and Belgium.

These weren’t all expected medals either, Geordie Beamish shocking everyone including himself to move from fifth to first in the final 20m of the men’s 1,500m final, adding to the high jump title won earlier on Sunday by compatriot Hamish Kerr.

New Zealand also won silver medals thanks to Tom Walsh in men’s shot put and Eliza McCartney in the women’s pole vault, had two fourths in Madison-Lee Wesche in the women’s shot put, plus Zoe Hobbs in the 60m, and one fifth, Jacko Gill also in the shot put.

The big difference for New Zealand was most of their top athletes bought into Glasgow, the fact that Israel Olatunde was Ireland’s only male representative, in the shortest distance, somewhat concerning at a time when there is evidently unprecedented depth in the sport (and record-high levels of funding).

In the end from the 651 athletes, representing 133 countries, 32 different countries won medals in Glasgow, including a first for African nations Benin and Burkina Faso, and Caribbean countries Saint Lucia and the small island of Dominica, population 73,000, thanks to Thea LaFond winning the triple jump.

Of the 26 titles on offer in Glasgow 10 were won by European nations, and after winning gold in both the individual 400m and 4x400m relay, Dutch star Femke Bol now has nine major world and European titles, and she’s still only 23.

The Irish women’s relay quartet and Lavin can take consolation from being part of the most competitive events in Glasgow. Lavin’s 60m hurdles final was the fastest race in the history of women’s indoor sprint hurdles, won by 28-year-old Devynne Charlton from the Bahamas in a world record time of 7.65 seconds.

After twice running a lifetime best of 7.90 to make the final, Lavin clocked 7.91 in fifth, Poland’s Pia Skrzyszowska winning bronze in 7.79, one of the fastest times it ever took to claim that third podium spot.

Lavin’s attitude afterwards was telling. After improving on seventh from Belgrade two years ago, and improving O’Rourke’s outdoor 100m hurdles record last summer, the 29-year-old from Limerick has every reason to believe her podium time can still come.

“From 2014 to 2021 I did not make a major championships,” Lavin said. “There’s seven years of hunger there, but also seven years of freshness in my legs that others of my age may not have. There is a massive hunger within me, and I am getting closer.”

Lavin only needs to take some inspiration from Noelie Yarigo, the now 38-year-old, who after competing for 20 years won that first ever medal for Benin with her bronze in the 800m final.

For Healy too, just turned 23, despite the disheartening sight of her collapse with metres of making the 1,500m final, the Glasgow experience will no doubt stand to her as she turns her attention to the summer. “I’ll be back,” Healy also said tellingly, “I know who I am.”

What further complicated Irish interest in Glasgow is the presence of a European Athletics Championships this year, set for the Stadio Olimpico in Rome from June 7th-12th, which will again appeal to Lavin and Healy, and the likely Mageean too.

The slightly shortened six-day championships, staged 50 years after Rome last hosted them in 1974, also present one of the final Olympic qualifying opportunities before Paris.

There is also the not-small matter of the World Athletics Relays in the Bahamas on May 4th-5th, where both the women’s 4x400m relay and mixed 4x400m relay will look to secure their Paris qualification, with the top 14 teams in both these events getting an automatic invite to Paris.

Adeleke has already made herself available for selection for that relay event, the natural hope and intention being that come the Paris Olympics later this summer events in Glasgow will be largely forgotten about anyway.

Athletics championships dates to come

March 30th: World Cross-Country Championships, Belgrade

May 4th-5th: World Athletics Relays, Bahamas

June 7th-12th: European Championships, Rome

June 29th-30th: National Athletics Championships, Santry

July 26th-August 11th (Athletics August 1st -11th): Paris Olympic Games