Briton lives up to her billing as favourite by winning an historic gold medal in Doha
This will surely be the first of many. Dina Asher-Smith might have to get used to this feeling.
The 23-year-old was carrying a great weight of expectation on her young shoulders in Doha but she promptly met them by commandingly sprinting across the 200m finish line comfortably clear of everyone else and winning the first global title of her career.
Yes, there were high-profile absentees – a variety of reasons meaning that Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson and Dafne Schippers did not line up in the final – but there was still a hugely difficult job to be done and it was done in some style.
As with so many champions, it was not just what Asher-Smith achieved but the manner in which she achieved it that was so impressive. Her response to the half-lap pressure was to run faster than she has ever run before, lowering her own British record by 0.01 to clinch victory in 21.88 (0.9 m/sec) and becoming the country’s first ever senior female world sprint champion.
— AW (@AthleticsWeekly) October 2, 2019
The race looked to have been won by the time Sunday’s 100m silver medallist reached the bend and it was America’s Brittany Brown who got closest, running a personal best 22.22 for second, while Swiss Mujinga Kambundji took bronze in 22.51.
Not long after her ascension to the world 200m throne had been completed – Asher-Smith was the only sprinter of these championships to make it to both the 100m and 200m finals – the realisation of her achievement began to dawn and there was an emotional embrace with her parents in the Khalifa Stadium crowd.
The new world champion dedicated her new piece of athletic jewellery, however, to another key figure in her life. It was coach John Blackie who identified something special when he first met a then energetic eight-year-old at Blackheath & Bromley.
“Even when I was little and trying to jump over hurdles and do the long jump he said ‘please watch yourself’. He said we can do some special things,” said Asher-Smith. “When I was eight, nine, 10 I didn’t see what I saw. He’s been careful with my progression to hold me back. This medal is dedicated to his patient intelligence and wisdom since.”
What would that young girl who first stepped on to athletics track make of her achievements and the journey she has been on?
“I think she wouldn’t believe me,” added the triple European champion who will also feature in the 4x100m relay later this week. “I said earlier that weirdly I use my younger self as reference. When I was in the warm-up area I thought back to my first champs in Moscow in 2013 and being literally so scared, holding the relay baton and being so sweaty that I thought it would fall out. I’m never going to be that unprepared and nervous. My young self would not believe me at all.”
— AW (@AthleticsWeekly) October 2, 2019
There was still a sense that the current day Dina was having to pinch herself a little, too.
“I don’t think it’s properly sunk in,” she added. “It’s something that, since the last World Championships, John and I knew that I could do it but it’s a different thing actually going and doing it – it means so much.
“I know I was tired and woke up today knowing this was the last individual chance and this was the moment I did all my work for. This is what we knew we could achieve if the season went well and the tiredness just disappeared when I needed it to.
“There’s so many British fans here and I know lots of Brits live in Doha but lots have travelled and for my mum to be here, my dad, John and his wife and my physios it means so much. Normally I’m quite chatty and full of energy but it’s one thing with everyone saying you’re the favourite but it’s a different thing going and doing it.
“You’re only the favourite if you go out and perform how people expect you to and I was really focused on putting together a good race. I dreamt of this but now it’s real.
“It means a lot and I’m really happy but I’m going to enjoy this one and use it as motivation going into the big one (Tokyo Olympics) next year.”
200m FINAL STATS
Dina Asher-Smith (GBR) 21.88 NR 0.138
Brittany Brown (USA) 22.22 PB 0.228
Mujinga Kambundji (SWI) 22.51 0.150
Anglerne Annelus (USA) 22.59 0.199
Dezerea Bryant (USA) 22.63 0.163
Gina Bass (GAM) 22.71 0.162
Ivet Lalova-Colli0 (BUL) 22.77 0.160
Tynia Gaither (BAH) 22.90 0.152
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