Dina Asher-Smith wins gold in national record of 21.88, at world 200m making history for Great Britain

Not so long ago Dina Asher-Smith studied history. Now, with each thunderous stride on the track, she makes it. And on a balmy desert night she summoned up a performance of shock and awe to become the first British female sprinter to win a world championship title.

This was not so much a race as a 91-step exhibition of Asher-Smith’s staggering athletic talents. The usual rocketing start. Then a bend so geometrically perfect it could have been drawn by a compass. And, finally, grace and power right to the finish. Long before she crossed the line in 21.88 sec – a time that lowered her own national record – gold was in the bag.

Then, after a little jig of joy, the scale of her accomplishment began to hit, and her eyes began to water. “Normally I am so chatty and full of energy, but I am lost for words,” she said. “Everybody keeps saying world champion, world title, but it hasn’t sunk in and honestly I don’t think it ever will. I have dreamed of this and now it’s real.”

Such was Asher-Smith’s symphony of destruction that her nearest rivals, the US silver medallist Brittany Brown, who ran 22.22sec, and the Swiss athlete Mujinga Kambundji, who claimed bronze in 22.51, were barely in her slipstream. The champagne, however, will be put on ice until after the 4x100m relay final on Saturday.

It is 15 years since Asher-Smith was persuaded to do her first cross-country race at primary school and hated it. Halfway round she nearly stopped – only for her parents to promise her an ice cream if she kept going. She ended up finishing fifth out of 400 and a glorious track and field career was born.

After Wednesday night’s win she paid tribute to her coach, John Blackie, who has known her since she was eight – and knew, even then, that she was a little bit special. “I wasn’t the fastest when I was younger, but I worked so hard with my coach John,” she said, smiling. “That we’re champions together means so much to me.”

There were also the warmest of words for her father, Winston, and her mother, Julie, who have proudly followed her journey through windswept local athletics tracks to arenas around the world. “My mum and dad have been to every single one. English schools. National athletics league. Junior competitions. All the way through to the world championships and Olympics.”

She knows that next year’s Olympics will be tougher – especially as the world’s best 200m runner, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, was unable to compete here because of scheduling clashes with her favourite event, the 400m. But Asher-Smith’s achievements in Doha should not be played down. Her 200m time was so fast it would have won 13 of the 17 world championships.

“Obviously you want to run in front of a stacked field but at the same time a world title is a world title,” said Asher-Smith, who looked back to her first moment on the world stage when she won 200m and 4x100m relay golds at the European Junior Championships in 2013.

posted Thursday October 3rd
by Sean Ingle