Dina Asher-Smith made a triumphant return to the Olympic track today in the women’s 4x100m relay, helping Team GB to a win in the first heat.
Asher-Smith ran the third leg, while Asha Philip, Imani-Lara Lansiquot and Daryll Neita completed the winning quartet. The British team finished in 41.55, a new national record, ahead of the USA and Jamaica in second and third place respectively.
‘There was never any doubt in my mind that I'd be lining up here today because the relay's really important, we got a bronze medal in Rio,’ she said after the race. ‘These ladies are in great shape, they're incredibly talented, so I knew I had to rest up and get ready for the team event. I've been training hard to get ready.’
The British team looked confident from the beginning of the race, with some slick handovers of the baton helping to put distance between themselves and other competitors. The Jamaican team, which did not feature sprinting stars Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah, although they may return for Friday’s final, suffered from a slightly messy changeover going into the third leg.
Asher-Smith pulled out of the 200m after she failed to make the 100m final. She snapped her hamstring back in July and although she is not still injured, she has not had as much time as other athletes to build back her strength.
Fighting back tears in a trackside interview, she described her disappointment at not being able to defend her 200m world title. ‘As the reigning world champion… And I was in such good shape, you just know that Olympic champion is not too much of a further step,’ she said.
Asher-Smith told the Evening Standard that she had been only a few weeks away from the level required to compete in the 100m final. ‘Essentially, all I do need is a few more weeks, a few more sessions training. [John Blackie, her coach] was even saying last night: “If you just had a few more days you would’ve been in the 100m final, another week or so is 10.8”.
‘It’s one of those things where I’m just chasing time. I knew that just giving me a few more training sessions, a few more runs, and I’d be closer to being where I’m used to being.’
The British men’s 4x100m team, composed of Zharnel Hughes, Chijindu Ujah, Richard Kilty and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, also progressed to the final with a second place finish in their heat.
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