No, this isn't a band. From left: Karlsruhe Meeting Director Martin Wacker, Dina Asher-Smith and Athletes' Liaison Alain Blondel (Michelle Sammet) © Copyright
General News

On eve of first indoor appearance in three years, Asher-Smith promises a ‘genuine attack’ on the 60-metre distance

One of the most eagerly-awaited appearances at tomorrow night’s Indoor Meeting Karlsruhe is that of world 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith, who’ll be making her first indoor start in three years. And nobody is as thrilled by that prospect than the British star herself.

“I'm honestly so excited to race,” Asher-Smith said during a virtual press conference on Thursday (28). “I've done three home meets in the last year, which was something not any of us were expecting. But my last overseas race was at the (2019) World Championships in Qatar so I am unbelievably excited to get out there - honestly, not just to do my job, but do what I’m passionate about.”

She’ll also hope to pick up where she left off.

In Doha, she raced to world 200m gold and 100m silver. The year before that, Asher-Smith clocked 7.08 to equal her career best in her last indoor competition, the World Indoor Tour fixture in Glasgow in February 2018. She’s not making promises that that will fall, but she’s not discounting it either, given her progression and training in the years since.

“I haven't done the 60 metres since 2018, because mainly I've trained through (the indoor season) and tried to stay focused on the outdoor season,” she said.

“I'm honestly really excited to give it a genuine attack this year. I have absolutely no idea what I can do. It's been a very long time since I've done, in earnest, a 60 metres. I am really excited about going out there and trying to run one quickly.”

“It will be a really, really good race,” she continued. “I'm super excited to get out and compete against some of the other fastest women in the world. And to hopefully put into practice what I've been working so hard at for the past year and a bit.”

After Karlsruhe, other World Indoor Tour stops will work their way into her diary, most immediately the ISTAF Indoor in Dusseldorf, a silver level meeting, on Sunday (31). She’s also seriously considering a return to the European Indoor Championships to equal or perhaps even improve upon her runner-up finish over 60m at the 2015 edition in Prague when she first clocked 7.08.

“I'd love to go the European Indoors,” she said. “I haven't done an indoor championship since 2016, a whole Olympic cycle. I'm a completely different athlete now so it would be really fun to do a 60-metre championship.”

Then of course, Tokyo and a second Olympic appearance loom large.

“Obviously I'd love to go to the Olympics and do what every athlete dreams of doing and have a fantastic performance in Tokyo,” she said, adding that that’s been her overriding focus during the pandemic.

“I know for a lot of athletes it’s important to stay focused, making sure you’re staying within your training programme, just doing everything you can despite the turbulence. That has really been the focal point for all of us. I'm sure it's going to be an amazing outdoor season for so many.”

That amazing campaign was supposed to come last year. Instead, when it became clear that the pandemic would turn 2020 into anything but a normal year, Asher-Smith said she and her team met to decide what would be the wisest way to use what turned out to be an “extra year”.

"We came to the unanimous decision that it was just good to build,” she said. “And it was an opportunity to get stronger in bits that might have otherwise taken a bit more time to work on. We thought it was best to just really build and get a strong foundation and use the time to train.

“And when 2021 came,” she continued, “then I was going to be in a good place, both physically and - very, very importantly - mentally. The decision was definitely from a mental aspect because there was no point pretending that what we've been through was normal, so we were just making sure that we were wise with our time and making sure these were best decisions for me, Dina the athlete and Dina the person.”

Despite lockdowns, Asher-Smith points out that she was fortunate to not really lose much training time. Under a UK elite sports exemption, she said, “I've been able to train consistently on a track from June.” With the exception of a normal down period in part of September and October, she’s been at it non-stop. “I have been training the whole time really - no break for me.”

Karlsruhe organisers optimistic

Asher-Smith and the rest of the athletes - there are 58 men and 63 women currently on the start lists - have been in a bubble since arrival, part of the painstaking efforts to keep everyone involved with the meeting safe and its operation within the health and safety guidelines set by local, regional and national authorities.

"This year’s meeting has only been possible through great collaboration with the government, local authorities and the likes of border control," said Alain Blondel, the Athletes' Liaison.

"We are now almost complete in terms of athlete arrivals. Dina was the first one to arrive, she had a huge smile on her face when she got here and hasn’t stopped smiling since. 

“We’ve now got people from the US, Philippines, Africa and really, who would have thought even a week ago, that we would be able to pull all of this off?

“We’ll have to be on high alert for the next 36 hours – even more so than we already have been – and of course we will be until all athletes will have left again safely.

"But overall we’re in really good shape." 

Bob Ramsak for World Athletics