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2020 Olympics

Dina Asher-Smith: “If you put a foot wrong you lose the race”

The world 200m champion spoke to AS about her ambitions and her training methods ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this summer.

Dina Asher-Smith: “If you put a foot wrong you lose the race”

You studied history. What would you say is the most important moment for you in athletics and in general?

That’s a good question. The most important moment in the history of athletics for me was when women were first allowed to compete [at the Amsterdam Olympics in 1928]. If that hadn’t happened I wouldn’t be here; I’m not sure exactly when it was but that was very important. As for history in general, I’m not sure… the Big Bang?

It’s an Olympic year and you’re the world 200m champion. How are you preparing?

When I’m talking about my goals for a season, I always start with a simple quote: to be in shape and to be fast. I want to be as fast as possible when the summer arrives. But, as strange as it may seem, in athletics to go faster you have to keep everything as it is. If you want to keep getting faster and moving towards greater achievements you can’t think about the fact that you’ve been a world champion. Basically, you have to start from scratch every time and keep working hard.

Is that why you’ve decided not to take part in the indoor season?

My motto is: ‘What you do in winter you notice in summer.’ It’s simple. My coach John and I are firm believers in that philosophy. When nobody is watching you it rains, it might be snowing, there’s wind and there’s humidity… that’s when you have to work because all of that has an effect on your performance in the summer.

You run 100m and 200m. Which do you prefer and why?

They are very different. Obviously, the 100m is short and sweet, but also very precise; if you put a single foot wrong you slow up and you lose the race. In the 200 you have more time to think, to straighten out any errors, but at the same time it takes more out of you... I like them both but as I’m now the world champion in the 200, I’ll choose the 200.

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In sprinting the countries that usually dominate are the USA and Jamaica… Do you feel that you’ve put Great Britain on the map of world sprinting, outside of Europe?

That’s a nice compliment, thanks. But no. We had a lot of icons in Britain before, like Christine Ohuruogu and Linford Christie… we had relay teams that won at the Worlds in 2017. So I feel that Great Britain was already on the sprinting map.

You mentioned your coach, John Blackie, and you stay true to your roots and still train at the Blackheath and Bromley Harriers, where you came through.

I know that I’m a role model because people tell me that I am but as I’ve been going to the same track since I was eight years old and I’ve grown up with lots of people there, I don’t feel any different. I watch the youngsters when they are training and they can be eight years old, or 13, or 16. I identify with them. Some of these girls can do the same thing I’ve done. I was born in Bromley. If you’re not comfortable with who you are, how are you going to perform to the best of your capabilities in a stadium in front of 80,000 spectators on the other side of the world?

You’re only 24 years old but in 2017 you experienced the other side of the sport when you broke your foot in training…

Like many elite athletes, I’ve had injuries before. In other sports, like football maybe, you can play through small issues, but in sprinting you have got to be 100 percent. And yes, it’s not fun. But when you’re injured I think that the most important thing is to always focus on your end goal. Even though you can’t run, my goal when I’m injured is always to do productive things. That could be doing more strengthening work than you’d do if you’re on the track, or working on more efficiency in your technique. You have to aim to come back better than you were before. That is always my thought process when I’m injured.

Dina Asher-Smith on the podium at the 2018 European Championships.
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Dina Asher-Smith on the podium at the 2018 European Championships.

Which opponent do you admire most and why?

I respect everybody I compete with, particularly those who have lots of titles and medals because they are obviously very dedicated women who work hard to be successful.

What do you think of Florence Griffith Joyner’s world record?

The world record is 21.34, and I think it’s absolutely amazing. That anyone can run that fast is crazy!

Do you have any secrets when you’re racing?

I pretty much detach from myself. Like when you’re watching cartoons and you think you’re Road Runner!


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