When the golden era of British athletics began, Dina Asher-Smith was still in the starting blocks. At the Olympic Games in London in 2012, the then 17-year-old worked as a volunteer and carried the bags for the big stars. She experienced the so-called “Super Saturday”, when Great Britain won three gold medals in front of their home crowd, but only as a spectator.
Ten years later, Asher-Smith is still occasionally asked about it. She always replies politely, raving about the importance of the evening for British sport. It has long since topped the success of its predecessors. The sprinter is still only 26 years old, but has been the biggest star and figurehead of British athletics for years. On Tuesday she starts as the three-time defending champion at the European Championships in Munich and wants to show there that she is still the fastest European.
In the years following the London Games, Asher-Smith has been on the up for a long time. At the last European Championships in 2018, she stormed to three gold medals in the Berlin Olympic Stadium, and a year later she became world champion over 200 meters. This summer, however, she is primarily considered a comeback kid.
While her rivals have picked up pace over the past two years, the Brit has tended to struggle with setbacks. In Tokyo a year ago, her dream of an Olympic medal was shattered because of a torn thigh muscle that she had kept secret for weeks. In tears, she had to cancel participation in the 200-meter race after the preliminary round over 100 meters.
Again and again Asher-Smith shows attitude
Her emotional appearance in front of the cameras was all the more moving because it was so unusual. Because otherwise Asher-Smith is very confident and confident when she speaks in public. She seems approachable, but at the same time is considered one of the most eloquent stars in her sport. And again and again she shows the remarkable gift of showing attitude without polarizing.
In 2020, as the sports world grappled with issues of structural racism following the murder of George Floyd, Asher-Smith, like many other athletes, spoke out. She chose a column for the arch-conservative newspaper “Daily Telegraph”. In her own words, she wanted to actively address those people who “have a different worldview”.
But Asher-Smith is not only considered one of the most popular British athletes because of her attitude. Of course, it also helped that she was also one of the most successful. In addition to the many gold medals, she became the Diamond League winner in 2019 and won bronze in the 200 meters at the World Championships this summer. However, the Jamaicans were faster over 100 meters.
That’s why Asher-Smith has to show at the European Championships that she’s actually still a winner. In the past two seasons, Jamaican sprinters such as Elaine Thompson-Herah, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Shericka Jackson have again significantly raised the level of performance.
Just a quick look at the list of the best brands of all time is enough. There are now six performances in the all-time top ten in the 100-meter run in 2021 and 2022. Fraser-Pryce only ran 10.62 seconds last Wednesday as part of the Diamond League in Monaco. Florence Griffith-Joyner’s world record (10.49 seconds), which was considered untouchable for a long time, is now shaky.
As the Jamaicans continue to improve, Asher-Smith’s fitness has been one of her main struggles for some time. This year, too, there were setbacks. In June she surprisingly lost at the British Championships and a few weeks ago she had to pull out of the Commonwealth Games at short notice because she had problems with her thigh again.
She thought she was on the right track again, after all she set the British record in Eugene over 100 meters in 10.83 seconds.
But it seems to be enough for the EM. On Tuesday, the Brit will start as a seeded semi-finalist over 100 meters, from Thursday she will continue with the 200 meters. As the defending champion in both individual disciplines, she is the clear favorite alongside the in-form Swiss Mujinga Kambundji.
Only then, in the crucial weeks of the Diamond League season, does she have to compete with the greats from Jamaica again. But already in Munich, Dina Asher-Smith wants to show that she is far from losing touch with the top. (dpa)