Dina Asher-Smith: Britain's best sprinter since Kathy Cook? by Steven Mills

Dina Asher-Smith, photo by PhotoRun.net

Dina Asher-Smith has caught on with the British athletics audience naturally. A smiling, normal nineteen year old, who just happens to be one of the most talented sprinters out of GBR is some time, Dina sprints fast, smiles often and enjoys the sport almost as much as her fans.

Steven Mills compared Dina Asher-Smith to the great GBR star, Kathy Cook! Here is his feature! 

Dina Asher-Smith: Britain's best sprinter since Kathy Cook? 

Since Linford Christie was at his peak, a major championships has seldom gone by without a British sprinter making a final in the men's sprints. James Dasaolu and Adam Gemili reached the 100m and 200m finals respectively at the last edition of the World Championships and CJ Ujah and Zharnel Hughes look set to follow suit in Beijing based on recent form and results.

On the women's side, the picture hasn't always been this rosy. Just as recently as 2012, the oft-maligned relay squad failed to reach a fairly benign qualifying standard for their home Olympics but pleasingly, the outlook is a vastly improving one and leading this upsurge is the precocious Dina Asher-Smith, who is already arguably Britain's best sprinter since Kathy Cook.

Like Cook, Asher-Smith excels across the board. She started her year by winning a silver medal over 60m at the European Indoor Championships behind Dafne Schippers where she equalled the British record of 7.08. The 200m is widely considered her best event but this could be up for discussion again after Asher-Smith became the first Brit to break eleven seconds for 100m in legal wind conditions at the London Anniversary Games. Last month, Asher-Smith also ran stride-for-stride with Allyson Felix over 200m in Birmingham which is the event she will be contesting in Beijing.

Asher-Smith, 19, has been marked as a top prospect since 2012 but predictions and expectations have always been rather tempered even after she became the youngest ever Brit to win a medal at the Worlds in the 4x100m aged 17 in Moscow. Perhaps this is simply because women's sport sadly receives less coverage in the mainstream media? Or maybe the career paths of previous teen prodigies such as Diane Smith and Vernicha James have served as a cautionary tale to those tempted to make grandiose predictions? Her name has largely been forgotten in the ensuing years but James looked on track for a glittering career after she won the world junior 200m title in 2002 ahead of Sanya Richards-Ross and Allyson Felix. Sadly, James raced for the last time aged 19 just two years later. 

By contrast, Asher-Smith is taking the transition to the seniors in her stride. And what's impressive is her training is squeezed around the rigours of studying history at King's College London where she's just finished her first year. The fact athletics is not an all-encompassing endeavour is surely healthy at her age, although many note Asher-Smith's maturity belies her years. She is also part of a great training stable of athletes of a similar age including twins Shannon and Cheriece Hylton who are all making tremendous progress under the watchful eye of John Blackie.

The word 'legacy' in the context of the Olympics is a largely indefinable one all too often used by politicians looking for a quick soundbite but the 2012 Olympics did make a palpable impression on Asher-Smith who wasn't wholly sure if she wanted to pursue a career in the sport three years ago. But this soon changed. One month after making the world junior 200m final aged 16, Asher-Smith was in the thick of the action on Super Saturday where she acted as a box carrier for the athletes. 

Talking to the BBC before the London Anniversary Games, Asher-Smith underlined how the Olympics really impacted on her. "I didn't think this would be me one day but I thought I would really like to be here," said Asher-Smith on competing in the Olympic Stadium in London for the first time. "What really resonated with me was the pride that everybody felt for Greg, Jess and Mo. Everyone was so proud and so happy when they did well and I think that's what really inspired me."

The World Championships are the immediate goal but the Olympic Games next August must be there in the back of the mind as well. After a minor volunteer role three years ago, Asher-Smith looks set to be one of the leading lights on the athletics team in Rio de Janeiro next year. Not since Cook in 1984 has a Brit won a medal in the sprints at the Olympics but Asher-Smith is surely a good bet to follow in her footsteps. 

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