Five things you should know about Dina Asher-Smith

·4-min read
Photo credit: Ashley Allen - Getty Images
Photo credit: Ashley Allen - Getty Images

Could the UK be set for sprinting glory in Tokyo? It’s no sure thing, but we certainly have the best chance in years with Dina Asher-Smith. She’s already put in some strong performances in the 100m and 200m this year and while American and Jamaican runners have so far been faster, she says she’s unfazed.

‘I definitely have faster in me,’ she told The Guardian. ‘I’m in good shape, I’m in actually really, really good shape, so I’m really excited. And I’m a championship performer.’

Here are five things you should know about the Team GB sprinter.

She shares a school with some other famous alumni

Asher-Smith attended Newstead Wood School for Girls, a selective state grammar school in Orpington, on the southeastern edge of Greater London. She can certainly be classed as ‘notable alumni’, a category she shares with a number of former pupils, including actor Gemma Chan (Humans), comedian Josie Long and Emma Raducanu, the tennis prodigy who achieved fame at this year’s Wimbledon tournament.

Josephine Vander Gucht, one half of pop duo Oh Wonder, also attended Newstead Wood. She told the Runner’s World UK podcast: ‘On Sports Day I would be the one that was like, “I’ll do the egg and spoon race,” and there were legitimate runners’ – a group that included Asher-Smith.

She was one to watch from an early age

Asher-Smith was an impressive junior athlete. She won the 200m title at the English Schools Championships as an Under 15, Under 17 and Under 20, and won gold medals in the 200m and 4x100m relay at the European Junior Championships in 2013. That same year she was the youngest athlete selected for the British Squad at the World Championships in Moscow, helping the relay team bring home a bronze medal.

Then in 2015 she became the fastest teenager in history over 60m, at the European Indoor Championships in Prague. She told Runner’s World UK at the time: ‘I didn’t even know, it was only when I went on Twitter hours and hours later and the BBC had a little thing up of my face that said I was the fastest teenager ever! It was pretty weird, I wasn’t expecting it at all but I’m really, really happy with the way the indoor season has gone’.

She managed an impressive academic record alongside her athletic career

Even though she was showing signs of an incredible sporting career at an early age, Asher-Smith didn’t give up on her academic career.

After achieving strong A-Level results just a year after her strong performance in Moscow, Asher-Smith went to King’s College London to study History. After three years at the university she graduated with a 2:1, having written a dissertation on the history of jazz music, focusing on Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong.

Speaking to RW back when she was in her first year, she said: ‘The first semester, it was a bit of a shock as the workload at Kings is quite demanding...but I’m getting used to it; the essays are OK, the reading is fine but it’s exam period now, so that’s a bit annoying.

‘I really want to focus and do well in my first year, hopefully set myself up for doing well in my degree.’

She has had the same coach since she was eight years old

Asher-Smith has been working with her coach, John Blackie, since she first joined Blackheath and Bromley Harriers Athletics Club at the age of eight.

Blackie was named Coach of the Year at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards in 2019, after guiding Asher-Smith to the 200m world title in Doha that year. He said at the awards ceremony: ‘Dina is very special, so she is a pleasure to coach.’

Asher-Smith, who presented Blackie with the award, said: ‘I found out on Wednesday and I cried on the train. He’s just so inspirational, so selfless and he gives his time and his emotions to all of his athletes. He doesn’t have favourites and he doesn’t keep favourites…I think he deserves it so much.’

She swapped the running track for the catwalk in 2018 for Paris Fashion Week

Asher-Smith has long been interested in fashion; it had been a source of fun, empowerment and pride for as long as she could remember, she told Elle earlier this year.

In 2018, she kicked off her modelling career with a stint on the catwalk for Off-White’s show at Paris Fashion Week. Asher-Smith appeared in a neon yellow bodysuit, with a zip pocket on the right leg, from the brand’s partnership with Nike. Alongside the sprinter was fellow Olympian Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who wore a sleeveless blackshirt with a blue design.

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