This part 1 with Dina Asher Smith, the fastest British women sprinter of all times. When one meets Dina, one is immediately congniscent that this woman is someone special. Dina always gives thoughtful interviews, and she knows how to handle the media. This is the third piece by Stuart Weir this week.
Dina – the early days
Dina Asher-Smith has become a superstar of World Athletics and a world champion. Power of 10 website records Dina running 14.6 for 100m in April 2007.https://www.thepowerof10.info/athletes/profile.aspx?athleteid=46473
While I do not go back that far, I think I can write about her with some authority as I have been present at most of her big races.
I first became aware of Dina in 2013 at the World Championships when, aged 17, she ran in the sprint relay, helping GB to a bronze medal. Recalling that event years later she commented: “I remember being at my first World Championships in Moscow when I was 17 and being so scared. I was sweating holding the relay baton in my hands and being scared it was going to fall out”.
The following year (2014) she was selected for the 200m in the European Championships, running two PRs before sustaining a hamstring injury in the final. In a strange way running in the European Championships was the second thing on her mind. The day of the prelim was also the day that British A level (School leaving exam) results were announced. Even after running a PR, she admitted: “I was more scared for the exam results than my heat to be honest – I was absolutely petrified of not getting into uni, but I got into King’s College. London!”
Even after the semi-final, it was still on her mind: “‘Is this the best day of my life?’ Definitely, without a shadow of a doubt! I got the junior record, I got into Kings and I made the final! I really just couldn’t have asked for much more out of this day”.
We never got to see what she could do in the final as her hamstring let her down. She explained: “I pulled my hamstring in the World Juniors, so to come here and perform like I did yesterday is unbelievable. This time last week I wasn’t able to run at 60%, so I can’t believe I did that. I’m still happy – I said yesterday it was the best day of my life and I’m not going to say this [injury in the final] is the worst. I’m fairly philosophical, my season was going to end anyway, so I’m not concerned and I’ve had an amazing week and I’m still really happy.
In 2015 I watched the 19 year old Dina run in the Czech Republic, Russia and China.
At the European Indoors in Prague she took silver in the 60m, running 7.08 to equal the GB national record. “It’s a bit surreal right now”, she said. “I’m really happy that I’ve managed to get a PB in the final – that never happens to me. I wasn’t expecting too (equal the national record).. In the race I was thinking run for your life.”
She was selected in the 200m at the European Team Championships in Cheboksary, Russia. The 200m was on day 2 and she was ill overnight and could not run. However, she had taken part in the relay – a race, which is still talked about. Asha Philip was injured in warm-up and Laura Maddox, an excellent runner but at 400m, made the mistake of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and found herself running the last leg. As a 400m runner she had no idea how fast a 4 by 100 runner would be travelling. Bianca Williams on leg three ran straight into Laura!
Dina was part of the official press conference in Cheboksary and a Russian journalist asked her: “What did you expect before your first visit to Russia? Did you expect to see bears in the street?” I have heard some strange questions in my time but….
In the World Championships in Beijing, Dina was in fastest in round 1 in 22.22, fastest in the semis in 22.12 before running a third PR in three days for fifth place. Her time of 22.07 was also a national record and the fastest ever 200m time by a teenager. She helped set a GB record in the 4 by 100 but only for fourth place.
Dina had come of age.
PS Like most athletes, Dina has found herself running in the public park during lock-down. On one occasion Dina was going a session and a passerby said to her “You’re fast. You should become a professional”. Now there’s a thought.