Britain’s fastest ever woman says she’s still getting her head around being a role model and admits she surprised herself with her record-breaking success this summer
Dina Asher-Smith might move faster than any other British woman ever has, but her approach when it comes to 2016 isn’t to blast straight into seeking specific Olympic success, it’s to take things one step at a time toward her main aim of becoming an Olympian.
The 20-year-old finished fifth in the world 200m final in Beijing in August, the then teenager’s British record-breaking time of 22.07 putting her sixth on the world rankings for the half-lap event in 2015. Asher-Smith also broke the UK 100m record and equalled the national record mark for the 60m indoors, but rather than targeting the podium or voicing a more specific goal for Rio next summer, the sprint star insists that first making the GB team is what she seeks.
“I take things very much one step at a time,” she tells AW. “Right now it’s very much that I’d like to make the Olympic team, that’s what my first target is.
“It’s going to be competitive to get into the team,” adds the Blackheath & Bromley sprinter, who became the first British woman to legally clock sub-11 seconds for 100m with 10.99 at the London Anniversary Games. “To become an Olympian would be super special. That is my main aim for the season.”
Should she achieve her goal, Rio will not be the first Olympics at which Asher-Smith has played a part. A box carrier at London 2012, she was in the Olympic Stadium on ‘Super Saturday’ and since then has gone on to win double European junior gold, form part of Britain’s world bronze medal-winning relay team in Moscow and become world junior 100m champion before making the European 200m final only to sustain injury. She worked her way back to secure European indoor 60m silver in a British record-equalling time in Prague, then ran Americans Jeneba Tarmoh and Allyson Felix close at the Birmingham Diamond League in the summer and claimed that fifth-place finish in Beijing, while also breaking a number of national records along the way.
It is easy to see, then, why she is considered a great role model, especially for developing athletes. On Friday (December 18) Asher-Smith was involved with the Youth Sport Trust’s National Talent Camp in Loughborough which brought together 350 young athletes, coaches and officials aged between 14 and 19. Only just out of that age range herself, Asher-Smith, who is currently in her second year studying history at King’s College in London, says the thought of being a role model herself is taking some getting used to.
“I’m like ‘I’m 20, how am I a role model!?'” says Asher-Smith with a smile. “This year I kind of surprised myself. I surpassed my expectations by breaking the 100m and 200m records.
“I’m in the same age range as the athletes at the talent camp so it kind of shows that with hard work and dedication it doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you have been doing it for, you can surpass your expectations and do some really cool stuff!”
Reflecting on her 2015 achievements, Asher-Smith adds: “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. Last season really did surpass my expectations. I still think it’s weird that I’m a British record-holder, I still think it’s very weird that I came fifth in the World Championships and I’m a world finalist.
“I haven’t let it sink in because I can never ever risk getting complacent,” she continues. “You can never risk getting comfortable where you are, you’ve always got to push the boundaries and try to work harder and that’s where the improvements lie. It hasn’t sunk in but that’s deliberate.”
Dina Asher-Smith’s top tips for sporting success
» Be patient because not everything you want comes overnight. It does take a lot of hard work.
» Be dedicated because if you consistently work hard then you will see improvement.
» Have faith in yourself. At the end of the day, you’ve got to be patient and work hard and that will build the confidence you have in yourself. If you’ve got faith in yourself and faith in your own ability then what you do on the track hopefully can speak for itself.