Dina Asher-Smith: European champion on pressure, rivals & relentless focus

Asher-Smith won three gold medals at the 2018 European Championships
Asher-Smith won three gold medals at the 2018 European Championships

From modelling at Paris Fashion Week to being a cover star for glossy magazines, Dina Asher-Smith is a sprinter in demand.

Three gold medals at the 2018 European Championships reinforced belief in her talents and unquestionably raised expectations of what may come.

Her social media pages blend videos of training drills with glamorous photo calls but the London-born athlete is at ease in the glare of new limelight.

"I'm a normal 23-year-old and my life is the same as it was last year," Asher-Smith, who will compete at the Anniversary Games in London in July, told BBC Sport.

"I still have the same friends. I know exactly how high-performance sport works. You can't afford to be away or distracted from your goal.

"I think people have to remember social media is a work platform and doesn't necessarily indicate what's going on in people's lives.

"I get invited to a lot of fun things which is incredible - to have great opportunities - but they only exist because I run fast, so I have to keep performing."

Asher-Smith's Instagram page highlights application to her craft, with an image from a night at the British Academy Film Awards sitting alongside a photo of her collapsed on a track after training and another of her doing chin-ups.

Videos of the European 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay champion doing core work with the caption "earned... not given" flank shots of her in designer gowns on red carpets.

Alongside images of glamorous photo shoots, Asher-Smith shares photos from training, including this one where she sais she was "waiting for my legs, eyes and brain to start working again"
Alongside images of glamorous photo shoots, Asher-Smith shares photos from training, including this one where she sais she was "waiting for my legs, eyes and brain to start working again"

The 2014 World Junior Champion has thrust her name into the senior track and field conversation, with American track legend Michael Johnson stating she possessed a blend of physical and mental necessities.

Johnson believes Asher-Smith can deal with a "desperation in Great Britain for a champion", while Lord Sebastian Coe insists she is a key player at this year's World Athletics Championships.

No British woman has ever won gold over 100m at a World Championships and none have made the podium over 200m since Kathy Smallwood-Cook in 1983.

Hope placed in Asher-Smith forms part of a momentum in British Athletics which has led to a target of seven medals being set for the championships, which begin on 27 September in Doha.

"I don't feel pressured," Asher-Smith told BBC Radio 5 live. "I am fortunate to be in track and field. It's not like football where you get partisan supporters.

"In athletics when you put on the GB vest, if you put on a good display and honestly try your best, people stop you in the street and tell you that they are proud of you anyway.

"I'm very fortunate to have some loyal, committed and intelligent people around me making sure my body is healthy. We are sure we are staying on top of things and I am still young, so hopefully I have some better and faster years ahead of me and that is what we are working towards."

Asher-Smith (left) modelled at Paris Fashion Week in September
Asher-Smith (left) modelled at Paris Fashion Week in September

Asher-Smith's mark of 10.85 seconds at the European Championships is a British record and would have been quick enough for bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games.

So medals at global championships are within reach if the King's College London graduate runs quicker again, though she knows the introduction of American, Caribbean and African athletes brings significant challenge.

She added: "The Europeans was great and I was proud to have run world class times. But obviously the World Championships and Olympic years are different so you have to raise your level."

Asher-Smith was the only woman to break 22 seconds over 200m in 2018 - and she was one of 17 women to run under 11 seconds over 100m, showing the depth that exists in women's sprinting.

"I don't worry about any of them as I'm fortunate that I am not in a contact sport so nothing can really go wrong for me," she said.

"There are so many talented women out there but I don't get worried.

"I'm not one of those people who try to distract other people, I just focus on me, do what I can and control my controllables. If someone wants to break the record in the lane next to me then that's up to them.

"I've had it happen to me quite a bit, definitely last season. Athletes may stand in the lane in front of you when you're doing a warm-up run. It's just things to slightly throw you off. They may place themselves in our peripheral view, that kind of thing. But I'm always very focused."

Asher-Smith hopes to "lay down a marker" for the World Championships when she races at the Muller Anniversary Games.

It could be a key stepping stone in a year where she adds to her already burgeoning reputation.

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