Sarah Lavin breaks her personal best and reaches the semifinals of the World Indoor Championships

Sarah Lavin helped the Irish team get off to a perfect start on day two of the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade with a superb performance in the 60m hurdles heats. The Limerick athlete reached the semifinals that night with a personal best of 8:03.

It’s a proud day for me, my coach, family and friends – everyone who helped me get here,” said Lavin, who qualified ninth fastest overall. “To ride a PB on the biggest stage it’s a bit difficult doing it at 9am after getting up so early, but I’m obviously excited and will move on now. I look back on the race and I’m looking forward to a few hundredths of a second more, maybe it’ll work today and hopefully I’ll make it to the final.”

Their semi-finals take place at 17:31 Irish time, with the top two advancing automatically and two additional qualifiers scheduled on time.

Teenage sprint star Israel Olatunde had a strong run in his 60m dash but his time of 6.66 to finish fourth wasn’t enough to advance to the semifinals. “I thought it was a good race,” said Olatunde. “I wanted to get out there and compete against the best in the world and I think I did well.”

Síofra Cléirigh-Buttner had another disappointing championship, the Dubliner was far from pace in 2:06.99 to finish fifth in her 800m.

“Not only is it not good enough, it’s not good at all,” she said. “It’s been a pretty sub-par indoor season for me, but no excuses. They always want to get to the champions and be their fittest and sharpest, but the indoor season hasn’t been ideal for fixing a few issues and trying to reset. The last two weeks have been better but sometimes the fitness is lost and today it just wasn’t good.”

Fellow Dubliner Luke McCann was disgusted with his performance in the 1500m, the 24-year-old clocking a time of 3:44.03 to finish seventh.

“I’m not happy, I felt like nobody could be happy with that performance,” McCann said. “It’s embarrassing to be honest. I know it’s my first world championship and I’m new to elite, but I didn’t celebrate when I qualified for it. I was expecting to qualify but that wasn’t what I planned. It’s just very, very disappointing.

“I thought I could keep up with these guys, I’m as good as any of them, except Jakob (Ingebrigtsen) of course, but I was gone, I ran a 1300 meter race there.”

Andrew Coscoran also retired after finishing fifth in his run in 3:40.53.

“That was very bad tactically,” said Coscoran, who had collapsed with Covid for the past month and had been battling some colds. “I ran like a headless chicken out there. I tried to keep up the pace, but I never really got going and ended up running a long way. The body felt okay, but it just wasn’t my race.”

Elsewhere, Ukraine’s Yaroslava Mahuchikh scored an emotional win in the women’s high jump, the Olympic medalist clearing 2.02m to take gold as war rages on in her home country.

Mahuchikh was at home in Dnipro on February 24 when she was awakened at 4:30 am by the sound of an explosion. “Even before I called my parents, I knew this was war,” she said. “I can’t put into words what I felt at that moment and I wish no one in the world would have the same or even similar feelings.”

Still, she found a way to keep training and a collaboration between World Athletics and the Ukrainian, Romanian and Serbian federations saw her embark on a three-day, 2,000km trip to Belgrade last week.

“Hundreds of calls, many changes of direction, explosions, fires and air raid sirens,” she said. “I would like to think that it was just a nightmare dream, but this is still the reality of getting anywhere in my country today. That is the reality of war.”

Her main competitor on a global scale, Olympic champion Mariya Lasitskene, was absent due to the current ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in international events.

IAAF World Indoor Championships: Live, BBC Two, 4:30pm; World Athletics YouTube, 4:40 p.m Sarah Lavin breaks her personal best and reaches the semifinals of the World Indoor Championships

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