The British record-holder has been named part of GB’s biggest ever European Championships team and says the experience will be invaluable ahead of the Olympic Games in Rio
In Olympic year, the continent’s top athletes could have decided to give the European Championships a miss with their sights set on Games success, but Great Britain is sending a strong squad of almost 100 athletes to Amsterdam and Dina Asher-Smith views the event as a “most valuable stepping stone” towards Rio.
The British 100m and 200m record-holder was overcome with emotion at the weekend as she won the British 200m title to secure her place on GB’s Olympic team and the day after she was also included in the squad announced for the European event, which takes place from July 6-10.
As well as contesting the half-lap event, for which Asher-Smith ran her British record of 22.07 when finishing fifth at the World Championships last summer, the 20-year-old forms part of a sprint relay squad for Amsterdam which features a whole host of talent.
“When you have got such talent and a high level of competition in Europe, it is the most valuable stepping stone towards the Olympics,” said the Blackheath & Bromley sprinter. “Europeans this year is a secondary event to the Olympics but any other year it would be the focus of our entire season so it is a great opportunity to compete at a really high level before the Olympics, which is simply invaluable.”
“When you have got such talent and a high level of competition in Europe, it is the most valuable stepping stone towards the Olympics”
Asher-Smith was pushed to the British 200m title by Desiree Henry, who also gained selection for Rio, while the 100m top two in Birmingham – Asha Philip and Daryll Neita – join them in the relay squad for Amsterdam together with Bianca Williams, Louise Bloor and Shannon Hylton.
“You’ve got so many talented people running really well in the UK right now,” said Asher-Smith. “We all ran well this weekend, it was really competitive which is one of the best prospects for the relay.”
On having secured her Olympic selection, she added: “It hasn’t sunk in yet! It’s so exciting and so special. I’ve wanted to be an Olympian since I was like eight years old so to have qualified for it is just really absolutely amazing. It’s one of those things that you always dream of but you never think it’s going to come true. But it’s going to come true! So I’m really, really happy.”
Asher-Smith has come a long way in this past Olympic cycle, also having become the first British woman to legally run sub-11 seconds for 100m with her PB of 10.99 clocked in London’s former Olympic Stadium last summer. That venue had been where Asher-Smith had her first Olympic experience, as a box carrier on ‘Super Saturday’, and that moment marked an important stage in her athletics career.
“It definitely spurred me on to take my athletics far more seriously simply because I wanted one day to hopefully make the country that proud of me,” she said, reflecting on an evening which saw Britain’s Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Greg Rutherford all get gold. “It was an amazing experience.”
“I wanted one day to hopefully make the country that proud of me”
Keen for others to be able to enjoy a similar experience, Asher-Smith is working with the organisers of next year’s IAAF World Championships and World ParaAthletics Championships as London 2017 launches its own volunteer programme and starts a search for ‘Runners’.
“Being a volunteer at London 2012 really did open my eyes to the power of sport and it’s a great opportunity that people have again in London 2017,” said Asher-Smith. “I know how great London 2012 was and it was made even better by the fact that I was a kit carrier and able to be pretty much front line for the action, the best seats in the house.
“It’s great to think that 4000 more people are going to have the same chance five years later.”
» Members of athletics clubs and the general public can register their interest in becoming a ‘Runner’ at www.london2017athletics.com/volunteer
» Video via sportsbeatvideo on YouTube