Dina Asher-Smith has same aura as sprint star Linford Christie, says coach

The Guardian
The Guardian

Dina Asher-Smith has the same aura about her as Linford Christie and can win the 100m and 200m in Tokyo despite not having the fastest times on paper, British Athletics’ Christian Malcolm has insisted.

Related: After Doha double, Dina Asher-Smith has Olympic history in her sights | Sean Ingle

Asher-Smith moved into the Olympic Village on Wednesday, far later than her Great Britain teammates who are also competing over the weekend, having decided to stay longer in camp in Yokohama. It is understood she is still having some therapy on what she called a ‘“grumpy’” hamstring this month, but has practised with the 4x100m team.

Any lingering issues would potentially make it even harder for the 25-year-old to defeat the reigning world champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, who has run 10.63sec this year, nearly 0.3sec quicker than the British sprinter. However, Malcolm – the Olympic programme head coach for British Athletics believes that Asher-Smith, who is due to start her Games in the 100m heats early on Friday morning, has a knack of delivering when it really matters.

“The one thing about Dina is that she’s built up in an aura of being able to win,” he said. “It’s going to be incredibly competitive in Tokyo. But one thing we all know about Dina is she knows how to turn up. We saw it in Gateshead in May. A lot of the top girls were there. And she was able to put one over on them. They will always have that at the back of their minds.

“It reminds me a little bit of Linford back in the day. Linford didn’t always run the fastest times, but he would always be competitive and able to beat these top guys when it mattered. I feel that Dina has that aura, too. I think it will be interesting. Don’t get me wrong. It’s going to be extremely tough.”
Dina Asher-Smith (second left) beat Marie-Josee Ta Lou (left), Blessing Okagbare (second right) and Sha’Carri Richardson (right) in Gateshead in May. Photograph: Chris Cooper/Action Plus/Shutterstock

Yet Malcolm did acknowledge that Asher-Smith would need to break her 100m personal best of 10.83 sec to win gold. “I think she will,” he said. “It’s going to take that if she wants to be on top of the podium. But Dina knows that she knows she’s more than capable of doing that. We know Dina has got a great head on her shoulders. We know Shelly-Ann has as well. But do the rest of the girls?”

Elsewhere, Britain will also expect track and field medals from Laura Muir in the 1500m, as well as the men’s and women’s 4x100m relay teams. After that it is down to possibles, not probables.

However, Keely Hodgkinson and Jemma Reekie have chances in the women’s 800m, as do Elliot Giles and Daniel Rowden in the men’s 800m. Josh Kerr, meanwhile, is a lively outsider over 1500m. But the heptathlon world champion, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, is up against it after her recent comeback from serious injury.

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