British sprint record-holder hopes to translate her European success to world and Olympic level
Dina Asher-Smith says she has been embracing the expectation that comes with being a triple European champion and last summer’s world-leading sprinter, using people’s energy to help create confidence.
The 23-year-old improved her own British 100m and 200m records to 10.85 and 21.89 when winning her continental titles in Berlin last year, completing the treble with 4x100m gold.
Those times put her top of the global rankings during a season in which she also earned gold and bronze at the Commonwealth Games.
Now her focus is on translating that to world and Olympic level, as she works toward the championships in Doha this autumn and the Tokyo Games.
Asked if she feels the expectations of others, she replies: “Yes, I do, but I don’t think I take it in a bad way. Some people would get really overwhelmed but for me, I think it’s nice in all honesty for them to think that I can go on to do great things.
“I’ve actually used some of their expectations to give me more confidence as well, because sometimes I do tell myself, ‘you can’t, you can’t’, when really I should be thinking, ‘I can’. So I have taken some of other people’s energy and put it into myself as well.”
She also has her own high standards.
“I think it’s been quite easy for me because I’m always quite realistic with myself,” she says. “Since the Europeans I’ve been saying, ‘It’s the Europeans, guys. Like it’s really good and I’m really happy with how I’m performing, but it is the Europeans’. Worlds, Olympics and Europeans are completely different competitions.
“At the same time, I want to do well. I have high standards for myself. Those are not necessarily unattainable. So I wouldn’t necessarily call it pressure. It’s more holding myself to high standards but at the same time being realistic and making sure that when I step on the track I can do my personal best.”
That’s again the aim this weekend, when she forms part of a top 100m line-up at the Müller Anniversary Games.
Among her rivals in the Diamond League event, which includes heats before the final on Sunday, are double Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, world indoor champion Murielle Ahouré, double world medallist Marie-Josée Ta Lou, world 200m champion Dafne Schippers and her fellow Brits Asha Philip, Daryll Neita, Rachel Miller, Imani-Lara Lansiquot and Kristal Awuah.
“Doing well against these talented women would always be fantastic but I never have the mentality of having to prove myself,” says Asher-Smith on whether it is important to put down a marker ahead of Doha.
“I just don’t go into races like that. I know that come the World Championships, hopefully I’ll be in fantastic shape and the work I’ve done will put me in good stead there. But I never really feel like at any given moment you have to prove something.
“Everybody’s at different stages with their preparation. It is a long season. I’ll be peaking for my trials at the end of August.”
At the trials, Asher-Smith intends to contest the 100m with the aim of doubling up in the 100m and 200m at the World Championships. With that in mind, the Europeans provided important experience.
“I’d never done it before (the 100m and 200m double) apart from maybe AAAs when I was under-17 or under-20,” she says. “It’s a change doing it internationally and I think last year was the first time I had done a senior 100m internationally as well so I’m always learning, I’m always pushing on to bigger things.”
She adds: “It’s all well and great doing well at Europeans but you have to be able to translate it to a world level. And the next year you have to translate things to an Olympic level.
“For me, it’s making sure that I’m improving myself, being the best athlete I can be and I’m leaving no stone unturned in time for the World Championships, so I can go there and put my best foot forward in earnest.”