Barr through to semi-finals, while Harvey and Lavin eliminated, writes James Sullivan.
There were mixed results for Ireland’s hurdlers on the opening morning of the European Championships in Zurich. Thomas Barr eased his way into tomorrow evening’s semi-finals of the 400 metres hurdles, but there was no joy for his compatriots Jason Harvey and Sarah Lavin, who both failed to qualify from the first round heats.
Barr, who broke Tom McGuirk’s long standing Irish record this season, with a clocking of 48.90 in June, claimed a comfortable victory in heat two of the 400 metres hurdles, recording 49.79, finishing well clear of Felix Franz of Germany in second place (50.23).
“Job done for day 1” remarked the Ferrybank AC athlete afterwards. “I knew qualification today wasn’t going to be too bad and I eased off the gas a little bit on the final straight. But tomorrow is going to be like a mini final, with three semi-finals and just two automatic qualification spots.”
The 22 year old national champion controlled the race from the beginning, being drawn inside all his competitors in lane two. “In the heats it wasn’t too bad as I could keep an eye on people outside me as it wasn’t like I was going to be busting a gut, but tomorrow hopefully I will have a better lane.”
While in good form, the Irish record holder is under no illusions as to the task at hand in tomorrow evening’s semi-final. “To get through tomorrow I don’t think I’ll have to produce a PB, but I’ll have to go quite close to it, maybe like a low 49. But if I want to get a decent lane for the final I think I will have to go very close to my PB. I think tomorrow will be a gun to tape race, with just two automatic spots. That’s a lot of people to knock out in one round. It’s going to be a fast race.”
There was less luck for Jason Harvey, who failed to emulate Barr, finishing a disappointing seventh in heat five. The Crusaders AC athlete was well down on his season’s best of 50.64, recording a time of 51.91.
“I can run 50 point low and I know I can get to the semi-final at least” remarked a frustrated Harvey in the aftermath. “I know I’m only 0.3, 0.4 seconds off Tommy (Barr), I know it in my head that I am. I showed that last year. In the end of the day I’ve got no excuses. I haven’t run as slow as that in a while.”
Running from lane 1, Harvey chased his competitors outside him hard through the first 200 metres, but appeared to run out of gas down the home straight. “I’ve had no luck. I had lane one in Commonwealths as well. It’s frustrating. You train in lane one all year, but it’s not great being a six foot three guy running in lane one.”
The 23 year old has had a disrupted build up, battling injury in the lead up to last month’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where he also failed to qualify from the first round heats. “I tore the medial ligaments just 10 days before Glasgow. But I haven’t trained eleven months not to be here. In the end of the day, if I don’t do well, then I don’t do well.”
In the women’s 100 metres hurdles, Sarah Lavin also failed to advance past this morning’s heats, finishing in last place of the eight runners in heat two, with a clocking of 13.35 seconds.
“I can’t be pleased with 13.35” stated the UCD athlete afterwards. “I’m so much better than that. I was flying in warm up, had a really good start, really good first five hurdles and then I fell apart. Around the fifth hurdle I started running their race. I was coming up and down, trying to go up with them and that’s when I hit the hurdle, as I could feel them slightly getting away from me. I hit two hurdles with my lead leg. I was strong for the first five hurdles but after that it just wasn’t there. Today I wasn’t good enough and wasn’t quick enough for those girls.”
The Limerick born athlete claimed the silver medal at last year’s European Junior Championships in Rieti, but found the level of competition in Zurich a considerable step up. However she maintains the experience will stand to her going forward.
“I went to the diamond league in Oslo, and that helped me prepare for this type of a crowd. I don’t think I was fazed by it in any way. It didn’t affect me. It was a brilliant experience and I feel so privileged to be here. I’ve just turned twenty and to get to my first senior championship, you kind of underestimate how big a deal that is until you’re actually out here and realise how small the team actually is.”
Despite her visible disappointment, Lavin is already looking to build on this experience and is clear with where her goals are for 2015. “Immediately my focus is individually going to be on the European U23s next year and get myself back up into podium position.”