By Neil Leverett
- 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships begin on Friday 27 September in Doha, Qatar
- Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith looking to claim first major World medal in Middle East
- 23-year-old Bromley Harrier set to compete in sprint double, of both 100 and 200m during Championships, as well as relay
DOHA, QATAR – As the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championship begin on Friday, Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith’ could begin her major World medal haul in Golden fashion in Doha.
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Asher-Smith poised to break drought
As the bright lights and above all sapping heat of Doha welcome the sporting world to Qatar for the 2019 World Athletics Championships, one particular athlete in the shape of Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith arrives in the Middle East poised to finally break a lingering and unwanted statistic.
Having yet to win a major individual World medal, the 23-year-old Bromley Harrier comes into the 17th championships on the back of a Diamond League campaign with three wins on the 2019 circuit to her name.
Ending the season with 100m victory on the last evening of finals at Memorial van Damme in Brussels – beating many of her rivals – the Briton also claimed a 200m winning double in Stockholm – perhaps most importantly, and psychologically – on the very same track she will compete on in Doha, during the early weeks of the spring.
Looking to time her form race to the line in Sunday evening’s final, Asher-Smith hold Team GB’s strongest hopes of returning home with a medal and despite knowing the stiff competition she will face, the Orpington sprinter’s athletic journey could reach the top of her sport in Qatar.
Potential to reality
First recognized for her potential in winning the European Junior 200m title in Italy six years ago, followed by being crowned World Junior 100m champion the year before in Oregon, at the age of 18.
Then selected in the British squad for the 203 worlds’ in Moscow, Asher-Smith was the youngest member of the team and helped her quarter to win bronze in the 4x100m relay.
The British athlete then became the first woman from home shores to run a legal time under 11 seconds in 2015, before finishing fifth in the 200m in Beijing, clocking a new national record of 22.07.
Crowned European champion in 2016 – winning her first individual outdoor senior medal – Asher-Smith then finished fifth in the Rio Olympic final a month later, again helping GB win bronze in the relay to firmly establish herself on the sprint scene.
Adding further honours to her growing repertoire, becoming Commonwealth relay champion in April 2018 on the Gold Coast in Australia – together with Asha Philip, Bianca Williams and Lorraine Ugen – was however, just the hors d’oeuvres for what was to come later in the year.
Briton’s Berlin breakthrough
Asher-Smith’s path to Doha was set in motion last August after a European Championships where the Briton won three Gold medals and fully established herself as not only the best female sprinter in Europe, but one of the best in the world.
Beating rising German star Gina Luckenkemper to Gold in her home Olympic Stadium – with defending 200m London champion Dafne Schippers in third, the British star then completed the sprint-double in beating Schippers in her preferred event, running a sensational 21.89.
In doing so, Asher-Smith became the first British female in history to run under 22 seconds, and entered the role-call list of fastest times ever ran over 200m by a woman, to position number 22.
Completing a remarkable treble in the German capital, she won another 4x100m relay gold and was subsequently named women’s European Athlete of the Year for her success.
Fraser-Pryce chief obstacle to glory
In Asher-Smith’s path to honours lie perhaps the most heavyweight women’s sprint field assembled in recent years. In both 100 and 200m this season, no less 11 different Diamond League have been witnessed, but the biggest threat remains in the form of a familiar foe.
Having returned from the birth of her first child this year, Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has at times shown perhaps her best form yet and won in dominant fashion in both Lausanne and London.
As former reigning Olympic champion in 2008 and 2012 over the shorter distance, Fraser-Pryce has won world golds at both sprint events in recent years. Both Asher-Smith and Fraser-Pryce have exchanged wins over one another, and the duel is likely the be the main focus for Doha gold.
That said, defending champion Schippers cannot be ruled out, nor Elaine Thompson who has finished the season strongly. Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare is something of a dark horse in Qatar with wins season wins in both 100 and 200m competition, whilst Marie-Josee Ta Lou ran a stunning time to win in Stanford in July.
With American duo Gabrielle Thomas and Aleia Hobbs both having ran season’s best time to on the way to Diamond League wins also, Asher-Smith has her work cut out to earn a step on the podium.
That very place on the world stage has remained elusive for Asher-Smith in individual competition, but after six years in preparation – and with Tokyo 2020 next summer – Doha could see the Briton taste glory. And it may just have a rather golden flavour to it.
Dina Asher-Smith goes in the heats of the 100m at 2:30 pm on Saturday 28 September, and the 200m at 3:05pm on Monday 30 September, in Doha, Qatar.
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