Great Britain

Dina Asher-Smith: Tearful Team GB sprint star pulls out of Olympic 200m with hamstring injury

Dina Asher-Smith had laughed off concerns earlier week as she insisted her “grumpy” hamstring had cheered up in time for Tokyo, but after missing out on the Olympic 100m final she then pulled out of the women’s 200m in a tearful interview, admitting she had torn the muscle at the British Grand Prix in Gateshead earlier this month.

In the circumstances it is astonishing she ran at all. “I tore it pretty bad, I was told it was a rupture and it would take three months to get back, it’s been a lot to deal with,” Asher-Smith told the BBC. “We had this whole statement ready to go but thankfully we had a second option, it was a slight misdiagnosis. We turned over every stone to stand on the line. I’m so grateful for everybody to put in so much work for me to stand on this track.

“I’m so disappointed, it’s Tokyo 2020, it’s everything I’ve trained for over the last few years, the last few weeks have been absolutely insane.”

It was a shock, but it was not entirely unexpected. Asher-Smith had ran a ragged heat on Friday, finishing second. Afterwards she said she had “another level” to find but she couldn’t locate it on a sticky night in Tokyo, finishing third in her semi-final in a time of 11.05 sec, way short of her personal best and the national record of 10.83. The performance was not enough to qualify for the final, even as a fastest finisher.

Aged 25, this was meant to be her peak Games. She crushed several rivals in Gateshead before her withdrawal and seemed primed to add more medals to the 200m gold and 100m silver she collected at the 2019 World Championships. Instead she looked well off her flowing best, seemingly running with heavy legs and the tension showing in her face.

“The most frustrating thing for me was that I was in the shape of my life,” she said. “Six months ago I was confident I would win this.”

Dina Asher-Smith, second left, had to settle for third in her semi-final (Martin Rickett/PA)

Britain do have a finalist after teammate Darryl Neita carried her impressive form from the heats into these semi-finals to qualify as one of the next to fastest finishers with a time of 11.00 sec exactly. Britain’s third entrant, Asha Philip, finished eighth in her race. “I’m proud of Daryll, she’s done it, she deserves it,” said Asher-Smith.

The front runners set a ferocious pace, with Jamaica’s reigning Olympic champion Elaine Herah-Thompson winning Asher-Smith’s heat in 10.76 ahead of Switzerland’s Ajla del Ponte. The Ivory Coast’s Marie-Josee Ta Lou won heat two in a photo finish with Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson, both posting 10.79.

The best was saved until last. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is 34 but the double Olympic champion gets better with age, and looks primed to win back the 100m title she won in Beijing and London after collecting bronze in Rio. She won race three in 10.73 and looked silky smooth doing it. Another Swiss sprinter, Mujinga Kambundji finished second and America’s Teahna Daniels finished third. Neita was fourth, but her time was good enough to book a place in her first Olympic final.

Daryll Neita reacts after finishing in fourth position to advance to the 100m final

Former Olympic champion Michael Johnson admitted there is concern over Asher-Smith’s form: “I don’t think it’s there in terms of that sharpness, she should be ahead of Del Ponte. The second problem is to pick up that power at the end of the race to maintain that lead and it just isn’t there. It’s typical Asher-Smith, but now Del Ponte is coming through and she’s slowing down.”

Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare was absent from the first semi-final after being provisionally suspended after a positive test for human growth hormone.

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