Dina Asher-Smith turned from history student to history maker as she broke the 31-year-old British record for the 200 metres and became the fastest teenager ever over the distance in Beijing on Friday.
While most of her university friends were travelling around Europe or taking on holiday jobs, Asher-Smith clocked a time of 22.07 seconds to eclipse Kathy Cook’s previous mark set at the 1984 Olympic Games, 11 years before she was born.
That it was only enough for fifth place in the 200m final for an athlete who broke her personal best in every round was cruel, in one of the quickest races of all time won by the Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers in 21.63sec.
Only two women have ever run faster, Florence Griffiths-Joyner and Marion Jones, hardly the most estimable company to keep, and it was the first time in history that all the world medallists have finished under 22 seconds, Elaine Thompson taking bronze in 21.66 and Veronica Campbell-Brown the bronze in 21.97.
Schippers, a former heptathlete, insisted she is running clean and said: “I’m very happy with my time, at my moment. I know I am clean and I know I work very hard for it.”
Asher-Smith, meanwhile, said she was “absolutely over the moon” at her performances. “I’ve run three personal bests three days in a row and ended with a 22.07, which is also a British record, so I’m a really, really happy girl,” she said.
Was there not just a modicum of disappointment in leaving without a medal, having come into a race billed as a head-to-head between Schippers and Thompson as the fastest qualifier?
“I’d love to have got a medal but to be in that calibre of race, seeing Dafne run 21.63, I’m really not disappointed,” she said. “I gave it my all, which is all I could ask for.
“To be in a race when two of the girls were running 21.6, I was thinking, ‘I know I’m really trying my best but they’re already gone, so what on earth is the time going to be?’ So when I crossed the line – if you see any pictures of me – I was just open-mouthed. I’m flabbergasted, it’s absolutely amazing.”
Asher-Smith had previously plotted her post-race celebration – carrot cake – beforehand with team-mate Zharnel Hughes, who was fifth in the men’s 200m the night before. But such treats will have to wait until after the 4x100m relay, with Asher-Smith set to play a key role.
Much as she has done all week, she was modest in her expectation, saying: “There are so many components in the relay that can go for or against us so we’ll have to wait and see. We’ve got great talent in the relay squad and we’re really excited about tomorrow. So fingers crossed.”
Regardless of the relay outcome, it has been a stunning first full senior year for the 19-year-old a year after winning the World Juniors. It is merely the start of the history making.Reuse content