Dina Asher-Smiths short sprint from an ice-cream bribe to a gold medal – The Guardian

Posted: October 4, 2019 at 9:44 am


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Moments after shrugging off all that suffocating pressure by obliterating her rivals to win her first 200m world championships gold medal on Wednesday, an exhausted Dina Asher-Smith took a deep breath and her mind wandered back to where everything began. It was something I dreamed about as a pipe dream when I was younger, when I started running, when I was eight years old, she said.

All those years ago, the 23yearold never imagined her dreams would come true in Doha. Even her arrival into the world of athletics seems a fluke only a bribe in the form of an ice-cream convinced the Perry Hall Primary School pupil to attend a running club where they ran cross country, a discipline she detested. It was her future coach John Blackie who saw her and put her on the right path, recruiting her to the Bees Academy in Bromley at the age of eight.

By the time Asher-Smith left primary school and arrived at Newstead Wood School in Orpington, she was beginning to break records. However, for Vikki Eason, her PE teacher and athletics coach, it was Asher-Smiths overall athleticism that was striking.

She was always a really able sportswoman in many different sports, not just athletics; good at school games, she swam I taught her as a PE teacher but also as athletics coach and she still used to come and compete for the athletics team.

The records continued. At 13, Asher-Smith recorded the 300m agebest in a time of 39.16sec. Even as her athletics career took off and she began her long journey of juggling sport and academics, she continued to be an integral part of her school.

There was never any question [that she was committed to school], said Eason. She took part in sports days and she represented the school at local athletics meets. She managed. She even went to primary school events and she did talks.

For all her lofty dreams, AsherSmith kept them to herself. Eason did not know that her pupil harboured Olympic goals until she watched Asher-Smith appear at the 2012 Olympic games as a kit carrier.

Asher-Smith returned to school emboldened and inspired, finally ready to embrace her potential.

Thats when she told me that she wanted to be an Olympian, says Eason. She was so keen and so enthusiastic to be so close to the athletics stars. She was keen to take part in all aspects of athletics; she wasnt just one of the ones to perform and not do anything else.

Bubbly is the word constantly used to describe Asher-Smith, and that is also how Eason remembered her. But that does not quite explain how Asher-Smith has been so ruthless in the face of pressure in a sport that relies so heavily on mental fortitude. Early last year, AsherSmith gave a Tedx talk where she spoke only of her career, her mindset and goals. Her opening line revealed plenty:

Im Dina Asher-Smith and I am motivated by a fear of failure, she said. OK, motivated isnt a strong enough word to express how I feel. Its more like an allergy to me an itching, nagging feeling deep inside of me that gives me the inability to be complacent about anything.

Most sporting champions are forged in the smothering heat of adversity and no season prepared Asher-Smith for this week more than the nightmare of 2017, when she fractured her foot in training five months before the 2017 world championships in London.

Ever since her Olympic experience, Asher-Smith had dreamed of London, so when doctors told her it was over, she refused to hear it. She worked tirelessly on her comeback and won a 4x100m relay silver after a fourth-place finish in the 200m. As wellmeaning people congratulated her simply on returning to the track, she realised that her attitude could not have diverged more.

The focus from then on was not just being healthy, not just running painlessly but it was being world class, she said. It was being as close to my best as possible. So many people have told me: Oh my god, its so good that youre running. Youve been so positive. Its great. But I wasnt in the business of just being positive. I dont just go into the championships being positive. If Im there, I want to be the best I can be and London was no different.

In 2013, as a 17-year-old, she received a surprise call from British Athletics to run in the 4x100m team. She was shocked at that and even more so when the British quartet secured a bronze medal. Those days are no more. Now, she calls herself a championship performer, and after she won the 100m and 200m double at the European Championships last year, she returned home to pandemonium. She is learning how to be famous.

Lots of people have been referring to me as a role model, which I still find very odd, she said. But at the same time I am rolling with it, because I do have a social responsibility to make sure young people have a positive person to look up to.

With a world title forever wed to her name and the Olympics on the horizon, there will only be more attention, more fame and more people looking up to her success as an example to emulate. But for all the fans she gains, it is telling that those who knew her first still back her all the way.

Its absolutely amazing, Eason said. Its just a real privilege to have taught her at school. For her to have worked with me and to now see her come through in the way she has? Shes just worked so hard and shes so enthusiastic. Its really lovely.

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Dina Asher-Smiths short sprint from an ice-cream bribe to a gold medal - The Guardian

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October 4th, 2019 at 9:44 am

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