Why the pandemic was a godsend for Olympic hopeful Sarah Lavin

Olympic hopeful Sarah Lavin ruptured two ligaments in her ankle last year but has made a strong recovery
Why the pandemic was a godsend for Olympic hopeful Sarah Lavin

Sarah Lavin. Picture: Sam Barnes

As soon as restrictions began easing last month, Sarah Lavin started running around her native Limerick. The 27-year-old loves living near the borders of Co Clare and Co Tipperary in her home of Lisnagry, but she doesn’t have much downtime these days.

“It’s all systems go. It’s make it or break it but it’s brilliant and on days where the sun comes out, you can’t wait to get out there,” the Olympic hopeful says.

Lavin clocked the second-fastest time of her career in the 100m hurdles at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Finland this month and last weekend became the second-ever Irish woman to break a time of 13 seconds at the Continental Tour Meet in Madrid.

Only 40 athletes will partake in the category in Tokyo. As the June 29 closing date for the Olympics deciders looms, Lavin is currently ranked at number 43. She will be racing every week until the June 29 closing date for the Olympics deciders.

“It’s just being in the top 40 at that exact moment. It’s going to be a tough one but I’ve been in there by the skin of my teeth. It’s easy to go either way but it’s just about working hard and trying to outdo yourself,” she says.

“The pandemic was also a godsend to be honest because I was injured last year. I had completely ruptured two ligaments in my ankle in February 2020 so I was lucky with this extra timeline. The Olympics probably wasn’t going to happen for me this time 12 months ago.”

Sarah Lavin proudly supports the Olympic Federation of Ireland's Dare to Believe schools programme, supported by FBD. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile.
Sarah Lavin proudly supports the Olympic Federation of Ireland's Dare to Believe schools programme, supported by FBD. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile.

What shape are you in?

I’m in the best shape of my life. My ankle still swells but I was lucky in that I didn’t need surgery and it wasn’t fractured so I can run OK.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

Most of my eating habits are pretty healthy. I love blueberries and I drink green tea most days. I think I subconsciously enjoy a lot of the good choices.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

Chocolate and chick flicks. It’s the ultimate combo.

What would keep you awake at night?

Nothing. I’m the best sleeper. I sleep between 10 and 12 hours most nights. Trying to stay awake is the problem. Sometimes my friends worry when they haven’t heard from me because if I get the opportunity to sleep in, you might not see me until 12pm.

How do you relax?

Going for a coffee with friends or having a movie night with my sister. She’s actually a dietician so she’s handy to have around. I’ll come in at 7.30pm after being at the track all day and
she’ll have dinner ready. She’s great. But when you start reaching for the chocolate and you get a funny look then it’s less ideal.

Who are your sporting heroes?

Sonia O’Sullivan. She is just the pinnacle. Everything she did was amazing. I also think Derval O’Rourke’s mentality and how she backed herself on the big days is something else. She didn’t necessarily go into championships with the fastest times but she always stepped up on the day. She’s inspirational. Paul O’Connell and Katie Taylor are just great people as well and I think that’s so important. They’re all icons.

What’s your favourite smell?

Lenor tumble dryer sheets. Can they please start a fragrance line?

When is the last time you cried?

Probably when I hurt my ankle. It was just so tough and at the time, I thought everything was gone.

What traits do you least like in others?

Large egos. We’re all just people.

What traits do you least like about yourself?

I’m a bit of a people pleaser and I should probably try to be less like that in order to preserve my own happiness.

Do you pray?

Every day. I definitely have faith.

What would cheer up your day?

Sunshine. You can’t be sad on a sunny day.

What quote inspires you most?

It was something I heard on the way back from the European Indoor Championships. I had two of my fastest times but I was disappointed not to make the final and felt like I wasn’t finished.

I was on the bus and someone said: “When losing doesn’t hurt, winning doesn’t matter.”

It just resonated a lot with me and it was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

I’ve travelled to amazing places and loved visiting them but home is still my favourite place in the world.

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