British team captain Asha Philip is targeting a spot on the 60m podium in Portland having fought back from a career-threatening knee injury
Asha Philip is expecting an emotional time when she steps out on to the track as captain of the Great Britain team in Portland at the IAAF World Indoor Championships.
The 25-year-old heads into Portland this weekend as British champion and the country’s number one indoor sprinter in 2016, having triumphed over Dina Asher-Smith in the 60m at the trials in Sheffield at the end of February with a season’s best performance of 7.10.
As a promising young athlete, winning the World Youth Championships 100m title in 2007, Philip had her short athletics career turned on its head with a potentially career-ending knee injury at just 17 years old.
Lengthy spells of rehabilitative care, including two sessions of reconstructive surgery, took their toll both physically and emotionally on Philip, leaving the Newham & Essex sprinter needing to relearn even the basic skill of walking before there was any prospect of a return to the track.
“It was such a horrible position I was in, as a young adult being so active and having that taken away from you in seconds. I couldn’t see this far ahead,” Philip said.
“Knowing that I’m here today as team captain of a British Athletics team 10 years down the line from when I first started athletics is heart-warming. Words cannot describe how I feel”
“While I was here I wanted to keep my feelings to myself but it is very emotional for me. My family have seen the troubles that I’ve gone through. The people who are close to me have known from start to finish what I’ve had to do to get here. I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody, not even my worst enemy, because it was horrible.”
In a team with world and Olympic medallists, and having come through what she has, Philip’s selection to lead the 23-strong British team in the US fills her with a distinct sense of pride mixed with an element of shock.
“To be honest I didn’t think it was ever going to be me. On the team you have Robbie Grabarz, an Olympic bronze medallist, Lynsey Sharp who’s done so well, Shara (Proctor) who ended up with a silver medal at the Beijing World Championships and you’re going to pick me? What?” said Philip.
“Knowing that I’m here today as team captain of a British Athletics team 10 years down the line from when I first started athletics is heart-warming. Words cannot describe how I feel. It’s touching and making me smile thinking about it. The people who weren’t there from the beginning will never understand how hard it has been for me.”
Now pain-free and with her troubles part of a bygone era, Philip looks set to be a big part of a talented crop of young British female sprinters with lofty aspirations for Portland, Rio and beyond.
“My aim is definitely to get a medal and it’s realistic that I should”
Portland is the third time Philip will compete at the World Indoors. After a semi-final elimination in Istanbul back in 2012 and a fourth-place finish in Sopot two years ago – followed by an equally agonising fourth at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow later in the year in the 100m – Philip is adamant that Portland will finally be her time to deliver individually on the global stage.
“My aim is definitely to get a medal and it’s realistic that I should,” she added. “This is my time to shine and I believe I’m capable of doing it so I’m going to aim to achieve it.
“I know how hard I’ve worked and I know I’ve been in this position twice before. I’m going out there to literally run as hard as I can because I know what I’m capable of. I would love a medal to bring home.”
She added: “There were little things I needed to work on and as time has gone by I think all my little bad habits that I didn’t realise I was doing have dissolved and hopefully I’ll be able to push myself to compete and run properly. Hopefully I will get a medal. Nobody likes coming fourth, there’s no point of coming fourth.”
» Find an online preview for the IAAF World Indoor Championships here, while the March 17 edition of Athletics Weekly magazine, on sale in shops now or available digitally here, includes a preview plus global indoor rankings