Dina Asher-Smith claimed victory in a thrilling women’s 100m to thrill an expectant home crowd in the Birmingham Diamond League.
The 200m world champion came home in 11.10 seconds, leading to a belated burst of joy from the British sprint queen after such a thrilling finish at the newly refurbished Alexander Stadium, which will host the Commonwealth Games this summer .
In the first major event since his lavish £72million makeover, Asher-Smith delivered an excellent performance as a headline sportsman at what is perhaps the strongest event in athletics at the moment.
While Jamaican superstar Elaine Thompson-Herah’s late exit on Thursday still exuded an air of disappointment, Asher-Smith added another layer of intrigue to an event that drew immense interest around the world after feeling “uncomfortable” in training .
Shericka Jackson, compatriot of Thompson-Herah and bronze medalist in Tokyo, was painfully denied victory, finishing second and just a hundredth of a second behind Asher-Smith, whose compatriot and Olympic finalist Daryll Neita was third in 11:14.
“I feel like I’ve made progress,” Asher-Smith said after the win. “I feel like I’ve worked really hard, but when you talk to a lot of athletes, a lot of people always think they’ve improved. I think I have more leeway in both 100m and 200m and we’ve worked really hard to achieve that over the past three years.
“Considering that in 2019 I was just a different person, in a different position mentally and physically. I’ve never been a time person because sometimes you can run a move recipe and it’s an insane headwind or it’s freezing cold. I just don’t think it’s wise to get bogged down in whether it’s a good time, although I will take it.”
American star Gabby Thomas, fresh off her 200m Diamond League win in Doha, finished fifth. It was the Olympic bronze medalist’s second 100-meter dash of the afternoon after making the odd move of lining up in the B race just an hour earlier, perhaps to simulate the feel of negotiation runs.
“It’s only May,” as Asher-Smith has been insisting all week, but the result should give the 2019 200m world champion confidence as blustery conditions and a newly laid course affect times.
The tantalizing prospect of Florence Griffith Joyner’s 34-year-old world record of 10.49 seconds set later this year remains. And while Thompson-Herah or Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce look like favorites to snag a piece of history, Asher-Smith will be quietly buoyed by their latest outing.
The 26-year-old also carefully positions her form and schedule like a chess champion, with the British women’s 4x100m team storming to victory in a world-best time of 42.29 seconds.
Britain’s men suffered a setback when Zharnel Hughes endured a nightmarish duel. After another 100m disqualification, won by Aaron Brown in 10.13, which drew the wrath of the legendary Michael Johnson, Hughes then left too soon for the final switch with Richard Kilty, ending Team GB’s hopes of a morale-boosting win the pain of having her Olympic medal revoked due to CJ Ujah’s doping ban.
Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson, who is becoming a real superstar on the track after winning Olympic silver last summer, delivered a commanding 800m win in 1:58:63, banishing fears of a thigh tear from March , which ruined a potentially historic year .
“It’s definitely an improvement on last year, but I just think the bar has been raised so much this year,” she said. “After running 1.55 last year, my goal this year is to run 1.58, 1.57, 1.56 consistently. I want to be at the top of the Diamond Leagues, not fourth or fifth. As much as it is about championships, I want to be more consistent throughout the year.”
Britain’s other Olympic silver medalist, Laura Muir, was in fine form in the women’s 1,500m with a time of 4:02.81.
“I didn’t think I would run here at all. So don’t just run, be competitive and win. I’m very happy,” said the Scot, fresh from his ongoing back problems. “At first I had back pain, but just because I compensated for it, I pinched a joint in my back.
“We fixed that and found it was the hip instead. I was compensating for so much without realizing it, making it difficult to figure out where the pain was. I went to London and had a specialist scan me and found the stress response in the femur and that was it, it was difficult to start rehab from there – on crutches, in the pool and then in the gym.”