Dina Asher-Smith defied driving rain and an unseasonable north-east chill to fire a warning to her Olympic rivals with victory in the women’s 100 metres in the Diamond League meeting in Gateshead
If Asher-Smith’s winning time of 11.35 seconds into a -3.5m/s head-wind was impressive enough, more pertinent was the pair of potential Tokyo rivals she left trailing in her wake.
Rising American star Sha’Carri Richardson, whose 10.72 seconds win at a meeting in Florida last month made her the sixth fastest woman in history, finished in second place in 11.44 secs, with world champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce back in fourth.
Asher-Smith said: “I was really happy to start my 100m season with a win. It was far from ideal conditions (but) this is good practice for staying in the moment.
“It is essential to race the best. The only way to get race-fit is to race the best in the world. These are the type of races you want to be in.”
It was precisely the kind of statement Asher-Smith desired after taking a prolonged absence from the track following her world 200m title win in Doha in 2019.
Returning to outdoor competition for the first time in Savona, Italy 10 days ago to win a low-key 200m, Asher-Smith could have been forgiven for finding the landscape in women’s sprinting dramatically different.
Within the same time-frame, 21-year-old Richardson had burst onto the senior scene, with three sub-80 dashes and a brash persona leading many to already dub her the most exciting sprint talent since the emergence of Usain Bolt.
A whiff of controversy due to her coaching set-up under convicted doper Dennis Mitchell only served to emphasise Richardson’s status as a headline act waiting to happen in the build-up to the Tokyo Games.
But it was Asher-Smith, who said she had spent the majority of her time away from the track working on her core strength, who adapted best to the dismal conditions, winning her heat in 11.45 seconds into a 4.4m head-wind.
Richardson and Fraser-Pryce eased through the second heat, but proved no match for the Londoner in the final, with Asher-Smith bursting out of the blocks and claiming a hugely significant victory on the road to the Games.
The vanquished Richardson lived up to her bold persona afterwards, insisting: “I’m happy with the execution of the performance, knowing what I have to work on, and just continuing to grow and show the world I’m here to stay.
“I’m excited to show the world that my times aren’t a fluke. I can run, I am pretty, and I am a force to be reckoned with. I want all the women and the world to watch out.”
Laura Muir destroyed her rivals in the women’s 1500m, charging down the home straight to take victory in 4:03.73, exactly four seconds in front of second-placed Moroccan Rababe Arafi, with Muir’s fellow Briton Katie Snowden in third.
Cindy Sember took gold in the women’s 100m hurdles in a time of 13.28secs, while Emily Borthwick grabbed silver in the high jump with a personal best of 1.91m.
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