Sometimes an athlete’s body language speaks far louder than words.
Dina Asher-Smith had just blitzed the field to become the first British woman to win the European 200m title and how did she celebrate? Like it was the opening heat of a club race. No arms reaching to the sky in triumph. No broad victory smile for the cameras. Just a hug or two for her nearest rivals, then time to move on.
Deep down the 20-year-old had expected to win her first senior title. She knew it was merely another staging post on the road to a bigger prize still, the Rio Olympics. “Nothing is given out on favourite titles or season’s bests or qualifying times, so I had to execute,” said Asher‑Smith, who led from the gun to win in a season-best 22.37sec, ahead of the Bulgarian Ivet Lalova-Collio who took silver 0.15sec back. The German Gina Luckenkemper won bronze and Britain’s Jodie Williams was sixth in 22.96.
“Sometimes I get a bit nervous and tie up in the last 30m so I just wanted to cross the line first.”
Asher-Smith – a history student at King’s College London – is fast becoming used to making history herself. Last year, she broke the British 100m and 200m record and, for good measure, became the fastest teenager ever over 200m when she finished fifth at the world championships in Beijing. With Rio in mind she said: “Hopefully, I’ve got a bit more in me. Knowing the way my coach likes to peak our seasons there should be a bit left.”
While Asher-Smith was celebrating, Greg Rutherford was up against it in the long jump final given he was in second place with two rounds remaining. When he dug deeper he mined yet another gold, a leap of 8.25m being good enough to retain his title by four centimetres from the Swede Michel Torneus.
Rutherford, who missed a month of competition after suffering whiplash at the Birmingham Diamond League, said he was nervous beforehand. “Within a month I damaged my neck, I hurt my knee and then I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. Although 8.25m isn’t very big, it’s good to be the best of Europe again. It is now about being the best in the world again.”
There was a third medal for Britain, in the women’s 100m hurdles, as Tiffany Porter took bronze in 12.76sec, behind the runaway German gold medallist Cindy Roleder, who stormed home in 12.62. “I had a bad last couple of hurdles but I’m still working on a couple of things,” Porter said.
There was Dutch delight in the men’s 100m as Churandy Martina took gold in 10.07sec, beating Turkey’s Jak Ali Harvey and the French favourite Jimmy Vicaut, with Britain’s James Ellington fourth in 10.19.
There was also controversy as Richard Kilty was judged to have started too soon by two-thousands of a second. “I reacted to the gun – that’s twice I’ve been penalised for the same thing,” he said. “I didn’t go before the gun. It’s a rule that definitely needs amending. I’m heartbroken.”
The European 400m champion, Martyn Rooney, qualified for Friday’s final in a season’s best 45.04. “I am not going to look at my feet again down the back straight like I did there,” he said. “I keep doing it for some reason; my coach is going to kill me for it. The second part of my race was perfect though.”
The former Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu made it through to the women’s 400m final after coming second in her heat in 51.35, along with Anyika Onuora, who won her semi-final in 51.84. “I am looking forward to the final,” Onuora said. “I will go out there to destroy it, whatever it takes to come away from here with a medal.”
There was frustration for Zharnel Hughes, whose dreams of making the Olympics are over after crashing out of the men’s 200m heats in 21.21. Hughes finished fifth at last year’s world championships but has been unable to recover from a knee injury. “It’s devastating,” he said. “I have to wait four years again. It happens to the greats, though, it just happened to me this time.”
Goldie Sayers and Jenny Meadows have served Britain with distinction over the past decade but they appear to have competed in their final international competition. Sayers threw 53.56m in the javelin to finish in 26th place in qualifying while Meadows, who has won medals at indoor and outdoor world championships, bowed out after finishing sixth in her 800m semi-final.
“It’s not the way I wanted to finish my international career,” Meadows said. “With 200m to go, I thought ‘respond now’. But I took a knock and I felt like my hamstring twisted. I was watching the other girls run away from me and not liking it. But I thought: ‘This is probably the last 50m of the last international race I’ll do. So just enjoy it’.”
Sayers said: ”It’s been an awful season for me, that’s me done for this year and maybe that’s it.”
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