Returning after a broken foot to secure world 4x100m silver and a 200m fourth place is more than the British record-holder says she could have hoped for
While some athletes would see sustaining a serious injury just months ahead of a home major championships as a huge blow, Dina Asher-Smith’s refreshingly optimistic nature means she always manages to find a flip side.
Who knows what the 21-year-old might have been able to achieve had she not broken her foot in February? But what matters is how the British 100m and 200m record-holder bounced back from that and how she believes the experience will set her up for the rest of her career.
“Arguably, this has probably done more for me in the long term mentally and showing me what I can do and what I can overcome than maybe having an easy season and getting a (200m) medal would have,” says Asher-Smith, who finished fourth in the 200m and secured a superb silver as part of the GB 4x100m relay team at the recent IAAF World Championships in London.
“That sounds entirely crazy because a medal would have been fantastic, I’d have loved that, but sometimes when you are younger you have to go through trials and tribulations to make you realise what real problems are.
“Now, if I get a torn hamstring or anything I’m going to rehab it properly and get over it because six weeks or four weeks out is nothing compared to three months,” adds the Olympic relay bronze medallist, who had surgery after her foot fracture to insert two screws. “And if I can have three months out then run a 22.2 and still come fourth, it does fill you with confidence for the future.
“I’d rather get all my learning experiences and my mental tests in when I am younger so when I am older I’ve got that mental prep to go out there and do the business when I am physically at my peak.”
“sometimes when you are younger you have to go through trials and tribulations to make you realise what real problems are”
Asher-Smith has a very wise head on her young shoulders but she knows her mentality and talent were two pieces to a bigger puzzle when it came to her return to the world stage in London. The Blackheath & Bromley sprinter, whose British records for 100m and 200m stand at 10.99 and 22.07 respectively, had raced over 200m just twice in the run-up to the championships, with a season’s best of 22.89 to her name, but she improved to 22.22 in the UK capital to finish just outside the medals.
She pays credit to the team behind her, including coach John Blackie, as well as the home crowd support for having helped get her there.
“It was really indescribable,” she says of being back inside the London Stadium where five years before she had been a kit carrier at the Olympic Games.
“You’d do a practice run and people would start cheering and you’re like ‘chill out, the race hasn’t come yet, save all your energy!'” she laughs. “But it was incredible and I definitely owe my 22.2 to performing in front of a home crowd in the London Stadium because they honestly cheered me on towards the end of the race. They completely lifted me and I felt like they were literally pushing me to the finish line.
“So to compete in a home champs was absolutely incredible and especially to be able to do a lap of honour in a home champs with the relay girls, that was an unforgettable moment.”
Now back on track after her injury, Asher-Smith is making the most of being able to race and she’ll perform in front of home crowds again at Sunday’s Müller Grand Prix Birmingham and then at the Great North CityGames on September 9.
In Birmingham, Asher-Smith will form part of a stacked 100m line-up including her world silver medal-winning 4x100m team-mates Asha Philip and Desiree Henry, plus two-time world 200m gold medallist Dafne Schippers and double Olympic sprint champion Elaine Thompson.
“I’m really happy,” she adds about her London experience, “and therefore really excited for the Birmingham Grand Prix because I’m just going to go in there and see what I can run.
“Running a 22.2 off not much training is really good for me so I am hopefully looking to go a bit faster in the near future and then we’ll see. As far as I’m concerned, with the season I’ve had, I’m back to my best now.”
» The Müller Grand Prix Birmingham is supported by Birmingham City Council and takes place on Sunday at the Alexander Stadium. For tickets to see the world’s best athletes at the Müller Grand Prix Birmingham go to www.britishathletics.org.uk