This was a test passed with flying colours by Dina Asher-Smith. On an unseasonable May night in Gateshead, Britain’s 200m world champion blew away a 100m field which contained rivals to her Olympic medal hopes and laid down a marker with two months to go until Tokyo 2020.
Asher-Smith shook off the cold and wet conditions and raced clear of the fastest woman in the world this year, Sha’Carri Richardson, as well as double Olympic gold medallist and current world champion over the distance, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, to win the Diamond League race.
The weather meant this was not about times - running into a head wind, she clocked 11.35 seconds, still a season’s best in just her second outdoor race this year. That is some way short of Richardson’s world leading 10.72, but it was clear all athletes struggled with the elements.
Asher-Smith continues 100% winning record for 2021 season
Richardson came in second, while Fraser-Pryce was fourth behind Doha 2019 bronze medallist Marie-Josee Ta Lou.
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This race proved that Asher-Smith is well on track to peak at just the right time for Tokyo. It was a professional performance from the 25-year-old and she executed perfectly. We are still early in the season but this was an excellent example of running the race - and not the time - which was clearly her game plan given what she said after her win: “I was really happy to start my 100m season with a win in what were far from ideal conditions,” she said.
“When you come to a Diamond League the most important thing to do is to run a good race and keep a cool head. It’s really good practice for staying focused and staying in the moment.
The only way to get race fit is to race against the best in the world. It’s the only way to know what to work on relative to the best women in the world so these are the kind of races you want to be in. I’ll definitely be looking to get a few more races in before the Olympic trials.
Asher-Smith’s team-mate Zharnel Hughes recently told Eurosport that pressure does not seem to bother her, and so it proved in the north east of England. Her calmness has to be one of her biggest strengths going into Japan, matching her world class talent. When others are doing the talking, Britain’s poster girl is quietly going about her business and she will be feared by her rivals.
100m might not even be her best distance. It is sprinting’s blue riband event but it is the 200m where Asher-Smith has her world gold. No one wants to build up the pressure and hype too much on her, but achieving the individual sprint double is a genuine possibility.
There will be other rivals to put away - Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah is second fastest in the world this year, while Allyson Felix could also be a contender having recently confirmed Tokyo will be her last Games - but Asher-Smith is proving she is a big race contender.
Work to do for Gemili - but he usually comes up good
Adam Gemili was sixth in the 200m
Image credit: Getty Images
Adam Gemili has had a tough time with injuries throughout his career, and he revealed after his sixth place finish in the 200m that he has been dealing with a number of niggles this year - mostly involving his foot.
But we saw his signature huge smile return, and Britain’s former relay world champion says he is feeling “healthy” again as he prepares to build up to Tokyo.
This was Gemili’s first outdoor event of the season, and only his second of the year, so it would have been unrealistic to have expected anything truly sensational from the 27-year-old. He opened his campaign with 21.18 (his personal best is 19.97) but was never left adrift in a race won by his American training partner Kenny Bednarek.
Gemili is a big event performer and has the experience to build up to peak at just the right time. Having suffered the heartbreak of missing out on a medal in Doha two years ago, there is still every possibility he can finally land a global individual medal.
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Asher-Smith posts season's best to win 100m at Diamond League