Stuart Weir has seen Dina Asher-Smith race 17 times in 2019! So, when he said he wanted to do a piece on Day Six, as she wins the 200m, who was I to disagree? Come on!
Dina Asher-Smith: World champion and all that jazz
It has been quite a month for Dina Asher-Smith, winner of the Diamond League 100m in Brussels and now winner of the World Championship 200m as well as second place in the 100m. And British records in the 100m and 200m this week. The 2019 World Championship 200m was perhaps somewhat devalued by the withdrawals of Shelly-Ann, Dapne Schippers, Ta Lou and Elaine Thompson but you can only beat those who are on the line with you and Dina did that with some style. And I for one believe that over 200m Dina would have beaten all of those. Had Shaunae chosen 200 over 400, well now, that is a question.
Dina was a clear favorite on the back of a consistently excellent season but she still had to go out and do it, which she did with style. She was ahead early and never looked like being caught. Imperious, confident, always looking a winner. She was expected to win; she was carrying the hopes of a nation but never looked as if the pressure was getting to her. Remember too that GB is a small country – certainly compared to USA. In the final there were 3 Americans and any of them could have been in the medals. Britain had one athlete in the final and to be brutally honest Dina was perhaps only one of two realistic hopes for an individual gold medal at this championship. Asher-Smith also become the seventh British woman ever to claim a gold medal at the World Championships, and the first since Jessica Ennis-Hill in 2015.
The result was
1 Dina Asher-Smith 21.88 NR
2 Brittany Brown 22.22, PB
3 Mujinga Kambundji 22.51
Dina said of her achievement: “I don’t think it’s properly sunk in, it’s something that since the last World Championships, my coach, John [Blackie] and I knew that I could do it but it’s a different thing actually going and doing it – it means so much. I was tired and woke up today knowing this was the last individual chance and this was the moment I did all my work for. This is what we knew we could achieve if the season went well and the tiredness just disappeared when I needed it to. It means so much.. Normally I’m quite chatty and full of energy but it’s a different thing with everyone saying you’re the favorite but it’s a different thing going and doing it. You’re only the favorite if you go out and perform how people expect you to and I was really focused on putting together a good race. I dreamt of this but now it’s real. I just wanted to go out there and do my coach proud and to do the work we’ve been doing justice and ultimately to do GB proud”.
It’s been a long season for Dina Asher-Smith. She started on 13 April in a Southern Athletics League Division 1 and the World Championship 200m final was her 18th race of the season. Come to think of it, it has been a long season for me too as I have seen 16 of her 18 races! I missed that season opener and the but saw the rest – the Doha, Stockholm, Rome, Lausanne, London, Birmingham, Zurich and Brussels Diamond Leagues and the GB Championships. Her opener was a 4 by 400 relay. Of the rest ten were at 100m and seven at 200m. Apart from the prelim of the British Champs she went sub 11 in every race and remember that she is the only British woman ever to go sub 11. Dina won six of her 100m races and came second on the other four – three times to Shelly and once to Elaine. In the 200m, she won 4 times coming second in the Diamond League final and in Birmingham to Shaunae and in Eugene she was third behind Blessing Okagbare and Elaine Thompson again.
I have been privileged to watch Dina’s career from the beginning. I have asked her several times if she thought she was better at the 100m or 200m. Her reply when I first asked the question in Russia in 2015 was that she genuinely did not know. She was more comfortable with the 200m because she had more experience with it was all she would say. More comfortable but not necessarily better! Having watched her win the Diamond League 100m having come second in the 200m, last month, I tried the question again. “I still don’t know”, she told me. My own view, for what it is worth, is that her best event at this moment in time, is the 200m although, I don’t think she is the best in the world at either. Shelly Ann has run 10.71, 10.73, 10.74 etc this year. Dina’s fastest is 10.83. At the 200m, Shaunae Miller-UIbo just looks unbeatable
In 2015 she was fifth in the World Championship 200m and again fifth in the Rio Olympics 200m. In February 2017 she broke her foot in a training accident but recovered enough to secure fourth place in the women’s 200m and a silver medal in the 4 Ã— 100 m relay. However the big question remained: what could she have achieved on a full year’s training. In 2018 she won 100m and 200n at the European Championship but recognized that she needed to move on from that: “Last year I was in great shape, ran some great times, but racing-wise I didn’t think I was quite there yet. I didn’t feel I was of the same calibre as some of the other girls. I still needed to take it up another notch.”
How she processed the 2017 injury is fascinating, seeing it as a learning opportunity: “I keep saying, ‘Going through this, a broken foot and having to graduate Uni at the same time was mentally and physically the biggest test I have had to go through’. I hope I don’t have that again but even if I do, I know it is possible. Breaking a foot, turning it around, going to World Champs 6 months later is pretty unheard of so I was pretty proud of myself and the rest of my wider physio, medical team and my coach as well, who looked after everything, that we were able to do that. Now if I tear a hamstring – obviously I don’t want to – but I’ll think ‘fine 4 weeks out, rehab and go – easy’. Nothing compared to 3-4 months out and then going to a home world champs”.
Finally, I feel you need to know this. Dina is a History graduate and did a dissertation on American jazz music: “I did commercial image and agency concentrating on Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. It was really interesting. I didn’t have a specific interest in jazz. I have an interest in American media and doing that through jazz music turned out to be so interesting. I loved every second of it. Sometimes you pick modules and they sound interesting… This was really interesting …. So many of the songs I did not realize were written by certain people. Some of these songs are so good”.
So if you find yourself talking to Dina and you don’t want to talk about running, try jazz!