World Indoors wrap: Lavin sets new PB as she finishes seventh in final

Disappointment for men’s and women’s 4x400m relay after missing out on finals

You know what they say about making finals. Not once, but twice on Sunday the Irish 4x400 metre relay teams were left wondering what possibilities might have been on the last day of events at the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade.

The women's quartet came closest to making their six-team final, Sophie Becker, Roisin Harrison, Sharlene Mawdsley and Phil Healy finishing third in their heat in 3:30.97, just .06 of a second behind Jamaica, who earned the last qualifying spot.

Still, there was some consolation given their time took four seconds off the Irish indoor record which had stood since 2004.

Mawdsley came away with the second fastest split with her 52.09 seconds, on the third leg; Healy then finished with a 51.98 anchor leg. “I gave it everything and to fall short by so little is disappointing,” said Healy, “ but it was a great performance form the girls. On the bigger picture, that’s one time posted for European outdoors so we have to take from what we achieved.”

The men's quartet of Cillin Greene, Cathal Crosbie, Brian Gregan and Chris O'Donnell also finished third in their heat, seventh overall, again with the top six teams going through to decide the medals; likewise their time of 3:08.63 bettered by 0.20 seconds the previous indoor record set by the Irish team when winning World Indoor bronze in Budapest back in 2004. O'Donnell had the fastest split of 46.18 seconds with his anchor leg.

It meant that Sarah Lavin was the only shining light in making a final, the Limerick athlete twice improving her own lifetime best to secure one of the automatic berths in the 60 metres hurdles, where she finished seventh.

It meant Lavin returned to the Stark Arena twice on Saturday evening, lining up after first clocking 8.03 seconds to qualify from her heat, then smashing the eight second barrier when clocking 7.97 in her semi-final. In the final, she then clocked 8.09 to finish seventh best in the world. Victory on the night went to Cyréna Samba-Mayela of France in 7.78.

“What a moment, just for everyone in my life,” said Lavin. “To be a world indoor finalist, no one can ever take that away from you. To break eight seconds, in this moment, on this stage, it’s a dream come true. To run a PB on the biggest stage, it’s a bit of an ask to do. It’s a proud day for me, my coach, family, and friends, everyone who’s helped me get here.”

Sunday’s session already had Yulimar Rojas on the brink of creating more history, set to become the first athlete to win three world indoor triple jump titles. That wasn’t enough for the Venezuelan jumper, who with her final effort soared to a sensational outright world record of 15.74m.

That improved her own world record of 15.67m that she achieved to win the Olympic title in Tokyo; her previous indoor best had been the 15.43m she recorded in Madrid in February 2020. Ukraine’s world long jump silver medallist Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk also had the triple jump competition of her life, leaping 14.74m in the final round to move from eighth to second.

Ireland's Luke McCann and Andrew Coscoran both had the goal of making the 1,500m final, only it wasn't to be, McCann exciting in the first of the four heats after trailing off on the last two laps, the 24-year-old clocking 3:44.03 to finish seventh.

With Jakob Ingebrigtsen for company - the Norwegian world record holder finishing safe in second - McCann needed to produce something big, and there was little disguising his disappointment.

Likewise with Coscoran, who was looking to build on his Olympic semi-final appearance last summer. Despite racing close to the front early on, he also lost ground on the last two laps and finished fifth in his heat in 3:40.53. Only the top two in each heat were automatic, both their times well short of making it as one of the four fastest non-qualifiers, Coscoran’s Belgrade preparations not helped by a recent bout of Covid.

Síofra Cléirigh-Buttner also came to the championships in mixed form, and bowed out of the 800 metres when clocking 2:06.99 to finish fifth in her heat.

At age 19, Israel Olatunde was making his first appearance in the world stage in the 60m, his time of 6.66 leaving him in finish fourth, also short of what was required to advance.

Saturday also brought considerable joy for Ukraine’s Yaroslava Mahuchikh, who won the women’s high jump with a leap of 2.02m to take gold as the war rages on in her home nation. Mahuchikh only made it to Belgrade thanks to the collaboration between World Athletics and the Ukrainian, Romanian and Serbian federations which saw her make a three-day, 2,000km journey last week.