For the past few years, Dina Asher-Smith has knocked on the door of world class, falling agonisingly short of the major global outdoor medal she has craved for so long. Having finished fifth at both the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 and Olympic Games Rio 2016 over 200m, she battled back from breaking her foot to finish fourth over the same distance in front of her home crowd at the IAAF World Championships London 2017.
All those frustrations were laid to rest on Sunday night when the British athlete claimed the silver medal over 100m at the IAAF World Championships Doha 2019. In her first ever appearance over the shorter sprint distance at a global championship, Asher-Smith broke her own national record, clocking 10.83, finishing behind Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce who took gold in 10.71.
“I’m not a negative person so I’ve never carried any bad feelings through from those results,” said Asher-Smith. “I’m just proud of myself because I’ve definitely taken my time and worked my way up from being a relay runner to where I am now. It’s been a lot of hard work over many years that I’m proud to see reward for tonight.”
‘I needed to take it up another notch’
The 23-year-old enjoyed a very successful 2018, claiming 100m and 200m gold at the European Championships in Berlin, clocking 10.85 and 21.89 in the process. However, despite running such blisteringly fast times, she didn’t consider herself a truly world class athlete until she secured some metal around her neck.
“My target for the 100m this year was to come away with a medal of any colour. European gold was fantastic but it’s difficult to transition onto the global stage and I wanted to push myself into the top three women in the world. 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 and I’m very happy to have done that now.
“I was always a 200m girl so to come away with a silver medal in an event that globally I’m less comfortable over means a lot to me.”
In finishing second, Asher Smith claimed Great Britain’s 100th medal in the history of the IAAF World Championships. She becomes the first British woman to win a world championship medal in the short sprints since Kathy Cook in the 200m in 1983 and the first ever to do so over 100m.
“That’s super cool. I was just focusing on my performance so it’s very easy to forget the gravity of the situation. It makes me feel super proud to have achieved a silver medal, a national record and to have done something no British woman has done before over 100m.
“I’m not very up to date with the stats and that’s not something I want to be carrying with me when I run. But now that the race is over, it’s great and it means a lot to me.”
Her historic achievement was not lost on the woman who denied her top spot on the podium, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who believes that she will be seen as a trailblazer for future British success in the event.
“I think she’ll inspire a lot of athletes in Great Britain,” Fraser-Pryce said. “It’s inspiring for other British athletes to know that the best in this event doesn’t have to just come from the USA and Jamaica; they can come from somewhere else too.”
Asher-Smith graduated from King’s College in London in 2017 with a first class honours degree in history. While she describes herself as somebody who loves studying and is passionate about reading, she admits that finishing university has allowed her breathing space over the last 2 years, something which she considered necessary for her to reach a global podium.
“My life has changed a lot since I have left university. I’ve been able to train like a professional athlete since 2017 which is really paying off for me. I’m able to train at different times of the day, I can do so with more intensity, and I don’t have any exam periods to battle through. It has made a huge difference to my running.”
Next up, 200m
Despite achieving a long awaited first major medal, the 23-year-old says she will not afford herself even a mild celebration. She has her sights firmly set on replicating her achievement over 200m later in the week, with the first round heats taking place on Monday.
“There will be absolutely no celebrations. I’ve got to get back, sleep, recover and be ready for the 200m heats.”
In the absence of world leader Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas, Asher-Smith is considered among the favourites over the longer distance. However, despite being the favourite with the bookmakers, she is firmly playing down such expectations.
“That’s the British bookies,” said Asher-Smith with a gentle laugh. “Honestly, there’s always going to be a bias there.”
On the basis of Sunday’s performance, not too many will be taking her advice.
James Sullivan for the IAAF