Sprint queen Asher-smith tears into track history
Briton smashes own record to win 200m Johnson-thompson in overnight gold position
For the first time in history, Britain has a female sprinter who can call herself the best in the world. Dina Asher-smith has the gold medal to prove it.
Where last Sunday she followed in footsteps few British women had ever taken when winning 100m silver, here she forged her own path in going one better. By breaking her own national record to win world 200m gold in 21.88 seconds, Asher-smith made history as the first British woman to win a global sprint title.
Yet what she achieved in Doha stretches far beyond that one statistic, no matter how momentous it may be. This goes bigger.
Asher-smith has been the sprint queen of Britain for quite some time. Last year, she became the undisputed sprint queen of Europe. After last night’s exploits, can anyone else have a better claim to the title sprint queen of the world?
Asher-smith, alone, made both women’s 100m and 200m podiums here. And while there were reasons for the absence of many rivals, they should be treated as no more than that – circumstantial factors that bear no relevance to the outcome. Her winning time would have been good enough for gold in 13 of the 17 editions of the World Championships. So much for anyone who claims this was a soft gold medal.
After crossing the finish line there was first disbelief. Then came pure elation. And finally, when she was reunited with her mother Julie, who travels the world watching her daughter race, came the tears.
Ultimately, the only words that matter are these: Asher-smith, world champion. “This means so much,” said Asher-smith who is a Telegraph Women’s Sport columnist. “I woke up today thinking: ‘This is it. This is the moment to do all the work for’. Suddenly, the tiredness disappeared. Everyone said: ‘You are the favourite’, but you still have to go and do it and you have to perform. I was focused on that.
“I have dreamt of this and now it’s real. I am getting all emotional, this means a lot, I am really happy.”
Having routinely challenged herself against the best this year, it was no surprise to see Asher-smith obliterate her rivals last night. Because, truth be told, if the headline act had looked either side of her during the 200m final she would have seen a cast of understudies.
The absentee list was long. A scheduling clash meant Shaunae Miller-uibo, unbeaten in two years over 200m, was unable to contest the event; Shelly-ann Fraser-pryce and Marie-josee Ta Lou, world gold and bronze 100m medallists last weekend, decided against putting their bodies through a second discipline; double world 200m champion Dafne Schippers and Olympic champion Elaine Thompson both withdrew injured; and Blessing Okagbare was disqualified in the heats.
In such circumstances, she could easily have cruised to gold with minimal exertion. Instead she went faster than ever before. The margin of victory was wide, with silver medallist Brittany Brown, of the United States, clocking 22.22sec, and Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji running 22.51sec for bronze.
“Obviously, you want to run in front of a stacked field,” said Ashersmith, of her missing rivals. “At the same time, a World Championship title is a World Championship title. And 21.88 is still a good time.”
This was not about those not there. This was Asher-smith’s day – the day she put British women’s sprinting on the global map.
If Katarina Johnson-thompson has her way, she will follow Ashersmith to gold after an opening-day performance which gave her an overnight lead in the heptathlon above Olympic, world and European champion Nafi Thiam.
Johnson-thompson set huge personal bests in the 100m hurdles, where she clocked 13.09 seconds, and shot put, which she launched 13.86m, as well as a championship record 1.95m high jump and season’s best 23.08sec 200m.
That gave her an overnight points tally of 4,138 – a lead of 96 over Thiam, with the rest of the field trailing some way back.
Asked if she believed she could win gold, she replied: “Why not? It’s something that I’m aiming to do, something that I’m in shape to do. I’ve worked very hard on my day two so we’ll see what happens.”
Trailblazer: Britain’s Dina Asher-smith leaves the field in her wake (above and far right) in Doha as she claims 200m gold. She is embraced by mother Julie (left) and yields to tears (right)