London’s Olympic Stadium has played host to many top moments for Dina Asher-Smith and she returns there ahead of making her Olympic debut in Rio
Dina Asher-Smith is Britain’s fastest ever woman. The 20-year-old has PBs of 10.99 for 100m and 22.07 for 200m and her career has moved quickly too – just four years ago she was preparing for London 2012 kit carrying duties, now she’s getting ready to run in Rio.
But first she returns to London’s former Olympic Stadium, a place which has already played host to many top moments for the Blackheath & Bromley sprinter.
A box carrier in 2012, Asher-Smith was at the Games on ‘Super Saturday’ and less than a year later she formed part of a winning Great Britain 4x100m team which clocked what was then the fastest time by a British quartet in 12 years.
Two years later, the then teenager was back at the Anniversary Games and this time she contested the individual 100m. Running 10.99 in her heat, she became the first British woman to legally clock sub-11 seconds for the distance.
“I’m really excited for the Anniversary Games because I’ve got such good memories of it,” she says. “Running sub-11 last year and before that it was my first time in the relay team.”
After running her record-breaking time in that 2015 heat, Asher-Smith lined up alongside athletes including Dafne Schippers, Blessing Okagbare, Murielle Ahoure, Jeneba Tarmoh and Charonda Williams in the final and finished fourth. This time she’ll take on a field featuring the likes of Jamaica’s two-time Olympic gold medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, plus fellow Rio-bound Britons Asha Philip and Desiree Henry.
“You always look to race the fastest girls that you can so I’m really excited to get out there,” she adds ahead of Saturday’s competition. “I had a great time last year.”
Asher-Smith secured her spot for her first Olympic Games by winning the 200m title at the British Championships last month. Looking back four years to when she was a kit carrier at the London Games, was Rio in her sights?
“We all have dreams. My dream was always to be an Olympian but I wasn’t in a place where Rio might have been a reality”
“I didn’t think about Rio at all when I was carrying kit in London,” she says. “In terms of the moment, I was just thinking ‘wow, I’m really privileged to be at the Olympics’. I wasn’t think about Rio or any expectations.
“We all have dreams. My dream was always to be an Olympian but I wasn’t in a place where Rio might have been a reality. I never really thought of it as a reality, it was more like a dream.”
Since London 2012, Asher-Smith has also won double European junior gold, formed part of Britain’s world bronze medal-winning relay team in Moscow, become world junior 100m champion, claimed European indoor 60m silver, finished fifth in the Beijing World Championships 200m and most recently claimed European 200m gold as well as 4x100m silver in Amsterdam.
With all that experience under her belt already, Asher-Smith won’t allow herself to get carried away with the Rio Games just a couple of weeks away.
“I’m excited for the Olympics, obviously it’s going to be my first Olympic Games, which everybody tells you is one of the most mind-blowingly exciting experiences you are ever going to have. In terms of the prospects of getting a medal and stuff, very much I take things step by step,” she explains.
“First of all I’ve got to get on the plane safely – I’ve still got a race to do in London. Then I’ve got to make it through the heats, then I’ve got to make the final. Getting to an Olympic final is such a big feat in itself. I’ve got so many more things to think about than the prospect of getting a medal.
“There are so many ladies running quick right now and all I can do is focus on my performance.”
The John Blackie-coached athlete adds: “When you strip it back, it is just another race. There’s going to be three more 200m races, exactly the same as what I did in Beijing, exactly what I’ve done at European Juniors. Okay, it’s on a bigger stage and more people are watching but essentially I’ve just got to do the same thing.
“In terms of preparation, obviously I’ve been training really hard and getting ready for it mentally with my coach, but I haven’t really done anything out of the ordinary because when you think about it, it is another race. As soon as you start to blow it up into something that needs extra care and attention, that’s when the pressure starts to mount.”
» Tickets for the Müller Anniversary Games are available from £20. Visit www.britishathletics.org.uk