A kit carrier at London 2012, Dina Asher-Smith could be winning a medal at the Rio Olympics, writes John Wragg
When she was eight years of age, Dina Asher-Smith drew a picture of herself on an Olympic podium and gave it to her mum.
Right now she’s working day after day to get better until one day her mother, Julie, can take that little drawing and place it next to a photo of her daughter on the Olympic podium with her medal.
Maybe this summer at Rio. That’s the plan. But there are sacrifices to be made.
She loves carrot cake and has had to give it up. “Yes, I do love it,” says Asher- Smith. “But I cannot have it when I want it. Definitely no. The last time I had carrot cake must’ve been September.
“And that goes for Domino’s pizza as well. I love the Domino’s. I’m one of those people that even if I look at a cake I’ve put weight on. If I was one of those people who could just eat what they want I would be doing that 110%.
“If I want to move quickly though, the carrot cake doesn’t really help.
“Carrot cake in one hand, Olympic medal in the other – the same colour, but I can’t have one if I want the other.”
It’s a small sacrifice, but the life of the genuine athlete is made up of these.
“Carrot cake in one hand, Olympic medal in the other – the same colour, but I can’t have one if I want the other”
Asher-Smith, the quickest woman in Britain, has to dodge from university to training to bed to university to training on a daily demanding schedule. She’s late for this interview because her timetable became so crammed. But better dodging to keep to a schedule than be dodgy.
She explains: “My normal day? University all day then training all night. Most days I start at 9am til I don’t know, about four, except Fridays when it’s 11 to six. Training starts at seven until nine.
“So I come home, eat, sleep, get ready for training, go training, come back, get ready for the next day, go to sleep. So yes, pretty jam packed.
“But you know what? I really enjoy it. I love doing it.”
Last summer was exceptional for Asher-Smith. She was the first British woman to run under 11 seconds for the 100m with 10.99 at the London Anniversary Games and set a British 200m record with 22.07 at the World Championships in Beijing.
“If I’m honest, it felt quite weird for me,” she says. “I’ve gone from a girl when I was doing my first year, the World Juniors in 2012 and the European Youth Olympics in 2011, when I was one of those people that just about crept into the team.
“I was never a sort of dead-cert for the team. I always used to just about get the qualifying right at the last knockings of the trials. For the World Juniors I just about got in and then I happened to do quite well (winning the 2014 World Juniors 100m) and I was really happy with that.
“But, if you see what I’m trying to say, to go from that to breaking British records it was really, really weird.”
She’d won the World Juniors in Eugene in 11.23 seconds and then shaved 0.24 off her time in a year.
She says: “Everybody went ‘It can’t be weird. You must be used to it?’ I’m just ‘No, I’m honestly telling you that it’s weird.’ I genuinely didn’t expect to break the 200m record. I really did not expect that because when you look at 22.10 you always think ‘blimey I can’t do that’.
“I started with a personal best of about 28!” she says, laughing. That laugh is always with her. It’s maybe next to the incredulity of what she’s achieved so suddenly. Maybe it’s not far from naivety either. There’s a big, dark world out there, but here’s a light shining.
“If I get a PB or something I’m still quite shocked. Sometimes I take a step back and think ‘Really? Really?’ And then you have to think about it, that I’m a bit faster. Okay. Done that. Now I’ve got to go a bit faster still”
“To cross the line fifth in that 200m, at first I was ‘Oh my God. That race was just so quick.’ I thought I’d run badly because everyone was so far ahead and then I saw my time and I was like ‘Oh my God. I can’t believe I ran 22.07.’ I don’t think I’m ever going to get used to it.”
Dafne Schippers won an astonishing race in 21.63, while behind her Asher-Smith was making history for her country by smashing Kathy Cook’s 31-year-old British record and treating the world to the quickest time ever by a female teenager.
She has still to come to terms with the new person she is.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m a different person,” she says. “I’ve got the same mindset. If I get a PB or something I’m still quite shocked.
“Sometimes I take a step back and think ‘Really? Really?’ And then you have to think about it, that I’m a bit faster. Okay. Done that. Now I’ve got to go a bit faster still.
“That’s the way I’ve been since I was a lot younger. So I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s like a different person. It’s just a real adjustment to now being a British record-holder.
“It would be hard to equate any of this in Rio. It was so special. For me, going into it, I just thought, ‘Go out Dina, try your best, see what happens, see what kind of time you run’.
“But definitely 2015 was a bit special. Hopefully I’ll be able to recapture that this summer.”