Former world youth champion overcomes long-term injury in recent return to form
Asha Philip has put three years of injury woes behind her to return to the track this year, with an eye on competing at the European Under-23 Championships.
Before Jodie Williams came along, Philip was being touted as the future of British women’s sprinting. The Newham & Essex Beagle in 2007 became the first woman from the UK to win a global sprint title, taking 100m gold at the World Youth Championships.
What made Philip a unique talent was the fact that she was a world champion in another sport too – the double mini trampoline.
But in late 2007, just months after her 100m victory in Ostrava, disaster struck at the Double Mini Trampoline World Championships in Quebec. Philip landed awkwardly and ruptured her cruciate ligament, putting her out of action for more than a year.
“I’m back now, but for a while I was really depressed,” Philip, 20, told AW. “I’d been doing two sports at a high level, and then the injury stopped both of them. I thought ‘where do I go now?’ But my mum and my auntie helped persuade me to keep going with the rehab.”
Although she competed in a few low-key races between 2009 and 2010, she did not break 12 seconds and was some way short of her 11.37 PB and former UK youth record.
It was only earlier this year – almost three and a half years after her career-threatening injury – that Philip returned to somewhere near her best. Competing in the London Indoor Games at Lee Valley, Philip clocked a season’s best of 7.40 in the 60m, her second best to date behind her 7.35 PB set in 2007.
Just two weeks ago Philip opened her outdoor season with a slightly wind-assisted 11.67 run at Loughborough – her fastest outdoor debut to date. Last week in Regensburg, Germany, she improved on that with an 11.62 clocking into a strong -2.9m/s wind – worth around 11.35 in still conditions – and finished one place behind European champion Verena Sailer, who is also returning from injury.
“For a long time I was rehabbing the injury and I’d only be doing little bits of training, and helping the coach with the sessions,” said Philip, who is now coached by Mike McFarlane and trains alongside world junior champion Williams. “The whole time I just wanted to join in with the full sessions, but I knew I couldn’t. When you’re part of a good training group, it makes you want to get back.”
No longer a junior, Philip’s goal for this year is to return to the championship arena. “The European under-23 championships are the aim for me this year,” she says. “That 11.6 was okay – I’ve done better in training, but for a first race I’ll take it. I need to dip below 11.6 to qualify.”
Philip may try her hand at the longer sprint too. “I might start doing 200s this year,” said Philip, who is now studying at Kingston University. “I’ve never really concentrated on that event because I hate it. My PB is 25.70, which I was proud of until the others in my group told me it was rubbish. I’ve been told I need to ‘man up’ and take a big chunk off that PB.”