The absence of an athletics track at University College Dublin isn’t making life any easier for an athlete who hopes to break Derval O’Rourke’s senior Irish hurdle records in the near future.
The iconic track, where Eamonn Coghlan was part of a team that set the 4 x 1 mile world relay record in 1985, was shut down in 2011 for health and safety reasons and the nearest alternative in Irishtown is currently undergoing repairs.
Limerick hurdler Sarah Lavin is on a scholarship at the university but with no base on campus on which to train for her and the likes of 2014 European Championships 800m bronze medallist Mark English, time-consuming trips across the city are the only other option.
Not that the Irish junior record holder in both the 60m and the 100m hurdles, both previously held by O’Rourke, is making excuses.
“I live on campus in UCD so I have to get two buses to train at Santry which can take up to an hour and a half,” the 20-year-old explained. “I train for two-and-a-half or three hours and then it’s the same journey back. I go out three times a week so it’s about six hours out of my day. It’s challenging but it teaches you how to time-manage well. otherwise you’ve no time for college, social life and just being a normal 20-year-old girl.
“You have to get on with it, you’ve no other choice. Hopefully Irishtown will open up again before the summer but, look, there’s no point complaining, you have to deal with the hand you’re dealt.”
If she’s undaunted at having to negotiate her way across the city to train, she’s also taking the constant comparisons with O’Rourke in her hurdling stride. Lavin says having someone of that stature in her event provides a good benchmark.
“Derval’s great,” she enthused. “She’s so willing to share her experiences. It’s great to have someone in your event who has gone through it all. It’s a huge advantage.
“It’s unfortunate in some ways in so far as she’s set huge targets and I’ve huge shoes to fill now she’s retired. I’m looking forward to the challenge and looking to progress each year.
“The U23 records are still intact so I’ve got this year and next year to get them. As soon as I get out of U23 I’ll be looking to challenge her senior records. It’s tough in some ways to be constantly compared to a world-class athlete but, at the same time, it’s hugely complimentary.”
In the meantime Lavin’s focus is on the indoor season which she starts in February and the European Athletics U23 Championships in Tallinn in the summer. “I wouldn’t be happy unless I came home with a medal. I’m thinking of giving the 200m a shot this year as well. The training is similar to the 100m hurdles. I ran it twice last year and knocked 0.8 seconds off my time. I definitely think I could contest a final at the U23s.
“I think when you’re younger the more championship experience you can get under your belt, the better. Last year and this year is just about gaining as much of that type of experience as possible before it’s into the big, bad world of senior after that.”
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