This is Stuart Weir’s comments on the state of British sprinting in Budapest.
What we learned about British sprinting from the two 200m races
Three British athletes were in the two 200m races but no medals. Zharnel Hughes was 4th was a solid performance – Lyles, Knighton, and Tebogo are always going to be hard to beat. Hughes would have needed to have just about equaled his 2023 PR of 19.73 to be in the medals. His assessment of his performance was fair: “I gave it my best – and I got 4th – but I gave it my best, so that’s not something to be disappointed about. I wanted to be on the podium, but that’s nothing to be disappointed about. I am still happy. You saw how close I was. If I were in a better lane, I would have been on that podium”. To come away from the World Championships was a medal, and a 4th place was a great achievement. If he can continue to improve, then next year could be very interesting.
I caught part of the BBC presentation on my phone, and they were saying that the women’s 200 was impossible to call. Tim Adams of Athletic Weekly – my neighbor in the stand called it perfectly – Shericka Jackson, Gabby Thomas, and Sha’Carrie Richardson. What a great championship Richardson has had!
Darryl Neita’s fifth place was an outstanding performance. This is the first year that Darryl has taken the 200 meters seriously, and what progress she has made! Her 22.16 was her second PR of the championships. I love how her comments after the race acknowledge the achievement yet with a desire and confidence that there’s more to come: “It might sound crazy to say I wanted to a medal, but I did. But I am so happy to come fifth and a PB. It was such an incredibly fast race, so it is amazing to set a PB in one of the fastest-ever women’s 200m finals. I am growing as an athlete, which bodes well for next year.
“It has been such an amazing season for me. I dabbled in this new event at the start of the year, and it’s the first season I’ve properly gone for it over 200m. I’ve been learning so much in this event this year. To qualify for these Championships, to make the final, to PB every single round, and to come fifth place in the world, I am just so happy, and words cannot explain it”.
There is so much to admire about Darryl Neita. When she felt she was not making sufficient progress in the UK, she took the bold step to go to the USA to work with Rana Reider. When that partnership became untenable, she and her dog, Melon, relocated to Padua, Italy to work with Marco Airale. She explained to me what she got from Marco last fall: “Marco is just so refreshing. Working with somebody so hungry and dedicated to what he does is so nice. He loves track and field. It is literally his passion. And I love track and field as well, so it’s nice to be around someone who is just focused on wanting me to be better, to be around someone who brings out the best in you. He creates a light-hearted environment for you to focus on the training and have some fun. I don’t know how to explain it, but I feel happy that I have found a coach I can be with for the rest of my career. It’s a really nice environment. I think Marco is an absolute genius. He ticks every single box; he covers everything. No corners are cut. We train very hard. He’s just dedicated, focused, and passionate about what he does. He wants to get the best out of us. It’s great. He’s a good coach!”
In contrast, Dina Asher-Smith has been coached by John Blackie since she was a child. Finishing eighth in the 100 and seventh in the 200 is not what she was expecting – especially when she finished first and second in the world championships 4 years ago. In Budapest, in the 200m, Darryl was faster than Dina in all three rounds.
Dina gives very little away in interviews, as her comments on the 200 in Budapest reveal: “Definitely not [the position she was going for]. With everything it has been, I think I executed it pretty well. Obviously, I would have wished that this World Champs was very, very different for me. I’ve felt like I am in great shape, but I had a bumpy ride through the 100m. So I am happy to have come out here; I am happy to have competed. In a world final, I don’t want to be running times that are behind where I want to be, but it’s done. Sometimes when life hands you lemons, you’ve got to make lemonade”.