Dina Asher-Smith: From likeable GB sprinter to world class golden girl

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Dina Asher-Smith will be looking to add to her three European medals from last summer in Doha. Photo: MV4R Photography

“I am motivated by a fear of failure…an itching, nagging feeling…that gives me an inability to be complacent with anything.”

Dina Asher-Smith does her best to outline in a Ted Talk why she has become a successful athlete, in the process making it clear why she is a firm favourite with fans.

Over the last few years, the sprinter from London has shown star potential on track, while having one of the most likeable personalities off it.

A huge breakthrough moment came at the 2015 Anniversary Games in London, where she became Britain’s fastest ever female sprinter, and the first to run a legal 100m time under eleven seconds. Her delight was audible from the stands above the noise of a delirious home crowd.

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At the World Championships in Beijing a month later, the 20-year-old showed a glimpse of what was possible, running personal bests as the fastest qualifier in both the heats and semi-finals of the 200m.

She then set a national record of 22.07s in the final. Finishing fifth was slightly bittersweet, but race winner Dafne Schippers had just set the third fastest time in history.

Afterwards, grinning from ear-to-ear as we’ve come to expect, she said “I could see them shooting off and I was thinking ‘wow, I would love to be up there.'”

In 2018, the runner who turned 23 today, proved that she is now up there with the best.

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It follows a challenging experience last season. Dina broke her foot in a training accident in February 2017. She laughs about it now, admitting “I didn’t realise I had broken it at the time, I was more embarrassed that I fell over in the middle of a gym…I couldn’t walk…I was getting Ubers everywhere”, she said in a candid chat on the IAAF Diamond League circuit.

At the same time, Asher-Smith was in the final stages of her History degree at King’s College London, with plenty of pressure on her shoulders.

Supported by medics, family and coach John Blackie, she battled back miraculously to finish fourth – one step closer to a medal – at last summer’s World Championships in London. Meanwhile, the tall, powerful Dutchwoman, Schippers stole the show with another title.

All the while, Great Britain’s relay quartet flourished with speed, accuracy, and finesse. The medal collection has racked up with Olympic bronze, world silver and Commonwealth gold in the 4x100m.

But the last few months are when the Blackheath and Bromley runner ought to have looked for a new trophy cabinet altogether.

A 100m win at the IAAF Diamond League meet in Stockholm with a time of 10.93, really caught the eye.

With the wheels in motion, she stormed to a phenomenal sprint hat-trick at Berlin’s European Championships in August, beating a forlorn looking Schippers each time.

Exciting numbers again beamed at her from the clock, and she naturally beamed back, smiling at the sight of two more (100 and 200m) national records.

Since then, she’s transcended athletics and even sport, a hallmark of someone starting to make waves. From magazine covers, to chat shows like Jonathan Ross, everyone wants a taste of Dina’s infectious charm.

On the morning of her return from Germany, she was on the sofas of ITV’s Good Morning Britain, where she spoke of the overwhelming buzz of recent times that have seen her pick up award after award after award.

Some may have feared otherwise, but as soon as she started talking, it was clear this was still down-to-earth-Dina with the same youthful innocence as before.

“All my group chats have 500 unread messages…when am I going to have the time to go through this?”, she chuckled. A screenshot had already been leaked from one conversation with her British team mates, where she claimed deciding on which hair scrunchie to wear for the 100m final was an “emergency”.

It means the next few years for the golden girl – or “green grecian goddess” (below) who was part of Paris Fashion Week – are set to be very exciting.

There is an opportunity to get on the podium (individually) at the World Championships, this time in Doha in the Autumn of 2019. Tokyo 2020 then brings with it the much-craved chance of Olympic glory.

Dina herself was inspired by watching Kelly Holmes win the 800 and 1500m double at Athens 2004. The two have much in common, including their record-breaking prowess, modesty, and strength in recovery.

Kelly’s face when she crossed the line in Greece painted a famous picture and captured the hearts of a nation. Dina Asher-Smith, with her remarkably smooth running style and killer sense of humour, is well-placed to do the same.

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green grecian goddess vibes #jonathanross

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For now, things are going from strength to strength for the woman who has even had a train named after her by Southeastern rail.

Of course, staying on the right track (pun fully intended) is easier said than done, particularly with regards to keeping injury free. The career of any athlete is full of highs and lows and impossible to predict.

But key factors are that Dina is likely to have her best years ahead of her, and most of all, she enjoys what she does. Denying she has celebrity status, she was asked by The Real Brunch Podcast if she is able to live the life of a normal 23-year-old. “In a way I don’t, but it’s not a negative, it’s a choice that I make.”

Dina, who has had the same coach since the age of eight, is committed to a lifestyle she loves and making the most of the incredible talent she possesses.

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First published on: 4 December, 2018 3:29 pm

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