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Dina Asher-Smith returns to put spring in British step as relay team set national record on way to final

·4-min read
 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

The morning after Katarina Johnson-Thompson had become the latest British Athletics star to leave the Tokyo Olympic Stadium track hobbling and in tears, the biggest of them all, Dina Asher-Smith, returned to brighten things up a bit.

Asher-Smith, whose own heartbreak in missing out on the 100m final rather set the tone for the cruel blows that would soon strike the likes of Adam Gemili and Johnson-Thompson, was back in action as part of a British women’s 4x100m relay team that produced a statement performance to break the national record en route to Friday’s final.

Following her 100m disappointment, Asher-Smith had revealed her race against time to be fit for these Games after a hamstring injury and pulled out of the 200m.

The issue is not, however, that the 25-year-old is still injured, rather she is just shy of her very best form due to missed training, and she immediately vowed to join Asha Philip, Imani Lansiquot and Daryll Neita to play her part in the relay.

“I’m really happy, after the 100m I did say there was no way that I wasn’t going to be here for the 4x100m girls,” Asher Smith said. “I’ve been training really hard this week, I only had one day off and then John [Blackie, coach] had me back on the training track. Essentially, all I do need is a few more weeks, a few more sessions training. He 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’.

Dina Asher-Smith was all smiles again in Tokyo. (AP)
Dina Asher-Smith was all smiles again in Tokyo. (AP)

“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.”

Led off by Philip, Lansiquot tore down the back straight before a fine bend from Asher-Smith gave individual 100m finalist Neita a clear lead to bring the baton home in 41.55, ahead of the USA and Jamaica.

Both of those countries will strengthen for tomorrow’s final, recalling the big guns rested after their individual events, but Britain will have the benefit of a settled quartet, three of whom won bronze in Rio five years ago.

“A medal is definitely on the cards for us,” Philip said. “I never like to jinx anything but I know, seeing that and the time.

“I feel like it was a nice warm-up for us. We were up at 4am, on a 6:40am bus, start warming up at 7:30am - all these numbers and times you’ve never seen before! To come out and run that time, we’ve all got great energy, we’re going to bring that again tomorrow, not get too high.”

With an early start to come, all four athletes had been watching last night’s action on TV in the Olympic village as Johnson-Thompson’s heptathlon dream fell apart due to a calf problem in the 200m.

“I feel gutted for her,” Asher-Smith added. “It was really hard to see, hard to watch. We had BBC on and they kept replaying it and we had to turn away and change the channel. I couldn’t watch it again and again. She’s worked so hard.”

Gemili’s hamstring injury was not the devastating blow to British individual medal hopes that Asher-Smith’s was, but the 27-year-old has long been a crucial part of the men’s relay team, including in the World Championship success of 2017.

In his absence, however, a quartet of CJ Ujah, Zharnel Hughes, Richard Kilty and Nathaneel Mitchell-Blake produced a season’s best 38.02 to finish second to Jamaica in their heat and also advance to tomorrow’s final.

There was a huge shock in the second heat as, even by their own usually unreliable standards, the USA turned in an abysmal display, a quartet featuring Fred Kerley, Trayvon Brommell and Ronnie Baker crashing out of the competition after finishing sixth thanks to a dreadful set of changeovers.

It turned into a bad half-four for the US as heavy favourite Grant Holloway - who had come within 0.01 seconds of the world record this year - was beaten for the first time all season as Jamaica’s Hansle Parchment took 110m hurdles gold.

However, American spirits were lifted soon after as Ryan Crouser set a new Olympic record with the second-longest shot put in history with an Olympic record 23.30m to lead home a one-two ahead of teammate Joe Kovacs.

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