Dina Asher-Smith: The making of a world champion

By Saj ChowdhuryBBC Sport in Doha
Dina Asher-Smith
Dina Asher-Smith has won 200m gold and 100m silver at the World Championships
2019 World Athletics Championships
Venue: Khalifa International Stadium, Doha Dates: 27 September-6 October
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport website and app; Listen live on BBC Radio 5 Live; Live streams, clips and text commentary online.

Miss Mandy Papadopoulos knew.

Before any coach, expert or analyst, it was Papadopoulos, a former teacher at Perry Hall Primary School, who knew Dina Asher-Smith would one day become a world champion.

The 23-year-old's achievement of becoming the first British woman to win a world or Olympic sprint title with victory in the 200m at the World Championships seemed pre-destined, according to her childhood class tutor and others who have watched the Kent-born athlete mature.

"I remember having her in my team on sports day - she was amazing," Papadopoulos told BBC Sport. "We were a few points behind and needed to win the last race - and who was in that last leg of the relay? Dina!

"She flew like the wind and left many of us speechless. What a finish!"

Papadopoulos said the bubbly student was keen on history and geography and was a member of the history club at the Orpington school, as well as being a natural athlete.

"Dina was a kind, polite and popular girl with a great sense of humour," Papadopoulos added.

Clare Hudson, Asher-Smith's primary school PE teacher, recalled she did not know whether to pick her for the sprint or distance events because she was good at both, although former head teacher Angela Ward said the Briton hated cross-country.

Ironically, it was during a cross-country race in Crystal Palace that Asher-Smith was spotted by her current athletics club Blackheath and Bromley Harriers and coach John Blackie, whom the Briton describes as her "second dad" having now been with him since the age of eight.

In a recent column in the Telegraph, Asher-Smith explained how crucial the Essex-born coach has been in both her physical and mental development as an athlete.external-link

"My coach John is like family to me," she said. "Lots of people wonder about him, as he is not the sort of person to seek out the limelight and want extra attention.

"He is happy within himself and finds joy in supporting others and helping them to fulfil their potential. He is a humble and kind person, and I love him to bits."

His support and that of her parents, Julie and Winston, allowed Asher-Smith to pursue her track and academic dreams as she secured the A-levels needed to study history at King's College London.

Asher-Smith celebrates victory with her coach John Blackie
Asher-Smith celebrated Wednesday's 200m victory with her coach John Blackie

A young athlete with big dreams

Denise Lewis, who won heptathlon gold for Britain at Sydney 2000, told BBC Sport it is that strong will to reach her maximum potential in all aspects of her life that sets her apart.

"She has great prowess for academia and made the decision she wanted to finish university and do athletics too," the 47-year-old said.

"Dina has always had a great mindset. Her success is not something that has just happened - it's come as she has evolved. She has always been a determined young lady."

Olympic 200m silver and world 100m bronze medallist Darren Campbell also recognised that this was an athlete worth investing time and money in, having first met Asher-Smith 10 years ago.

"I set up a school fundraising initiative with the late Todd Bennett, who used to run 400m," Campbell told the BBC.

"When we were launching the event the first grant we ever gave out was to Dina. So yeah, probably from that meeting you knew that she was a young athlete who had big dreams and I think that is so important.

"We are talking about somebody who will line up against the greatest sprinters that Great Britain has ever produced - the likes of former world and Olympic champion Linford Christie. That's how special Dina Asher-Smith is."

Asher-Smith the record breaker

Her career trajectory has gone one way since she became double European sprint champion in 2013.

A world junior title followed in 2014 before she became the first British female sprinter to run 100m under 11 seconds in 2015.

A European indoor 60m silver was her first major senior medal before she made a big leap coming fifth in the 2015 World Championships 200m with a stunning time of 22.07 - a national record at the time.

Belief grew.

She became European 200m champion in 2016 and edged closer to a global podium finish with a fourth place at Rio 2016.

Last year's European treble was probably a foregone conclusion, but it was the manner in which she did it - 10.85 in the 100m and 21.89 in the 200m - and Asher-Smith then anchored Great Britain to victory in the 4x100m relay final.

Then she delivered in Doha. The 100m silver on Sunday was the first individual world medal won by a British female since Kathy Cook in 1983 followed finally by the historic triumph in her favoured event in a British record time of 21.88 seconds. And the 200m gold on Wednesday saw her become the first British woman to win a major global sprint title.

A British athletics icon

British triple-jump champion Naomi Ogbeta said Asher-Smith is the natural successor to recent British athletics icons.

"In terms of British sport she can really change things," the 21-year-old told BBC Sport.

"We haven't really had somebody this recognisable since the days of Greg Rutherford, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Mo Farah. Dina is bringing the whole team back up."

But perhaps the last word should go to her former head teacher Ward.

"Dina always aimed high. When things didn't work out as she wanted she would double her efforts and work even harder - she wasn't one to give up," she said.

"She is an inspiration. Always a great personality, full of energy and fun. She still makes time for Perry Hall Primary School where it all began - we are so proud of her."

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