Ojie Edoburun and Dina Asher-Smith qualify for Doha 2019 as British 100m champions

  • Kobe Tong

For a man who claims to have only cried five times in his life, the waterworks opened for Ojie Edoburun after just 10.18 seconds at the British Athletics Championships.

A highly decorated junior athlete, many had begun to think Edoburun’s career would flush down the same plughole as so many competitors who, after showing early promise, faded away into obscurity.

The Brit even thought about it himself, but victory in the 100 metres and booking himself a seat on the flight to Doha was the vindication he’d been fighting for. Ojie had arrived.

Zharnel Hughes was the favourite going into the fight to become Britain’s fastest man, while Adam Gemili had proven his strength against a world-class field at the Birmingham Diamond League.

In the end, both sprinters would also cross the line at the Alexander Stadium in 10.18 seconds but – unbeknownst to Edoburun – they were both fractions behind the new British champion.

Edoburun crowned Britain’s fastest

It was uncanny that the haywire television in the mixed zone only showed a camera angle of one athlete the whole time: Edoburun.

And with shades of Sally Pearson discovering she was an Olympic champion in 2012, the 23-year-old exploded with emotion when his name flashed up beside an unmistakable number one.

The tears had dried up by the time Edoburun entered the media centre, but the newly-crowned British champion reiterated the same message he told me in Glasgow and on the phone in June.

Fighting back from setbacks

“It means more than most people think,” the British sprinter told GiveMeSport. “I’ve had a hard journey: setbacks, losing confidence, gaining confidence, seeing people excel before you, thinking I should have been places a long time ago when I wasn’t.

“There’s been so many hard pills I’ve had to swallow over the past few seasons. I’ve just never been discouraged by it, I’ve had the right people around me and I started to believe in myself a lot more.

“It’s trials man, it’s anybody’s on the day. When you come to the start-line, you start at zero and the media don’t get that, there’s a new narrative with every race. I knew the narrative was there to be written and I wanted to write it.”

The importance of mental strength

There’s a common theme amongst everything I’ve discussed with Edoburun recently and that’s his belief in the importance of sports psychology, a philosophy that has paid off this summer.

Branding the physical part of the sport ‘easy’, the London-born athlete has built a team around him to ensure an optimal state of mind in the races that matter most.

Pausing thoughtfully, Edoburun recalled: “Dwain [Chambers] trains at Lee Valley, and obviously he’s won this title many times, and he said something to me last week which resonated with me: ‘the person with the least in their head will win.’

“So, I thought: ‘you’ve got to be on that start-line with a clear head.’ If you’re thinking about the guy next to you, the previous race or what if it goes wrong, you’ve already lost.

“It’s plain and simple: run from A to B as fast as you can. You can tweak it technically, but it’s a simple event in its essence. So, I had nothing in my head and the battle was won before I stepped on the track.”

Other highlights from Day One

There was to be no Buster Douglas moment in the women’s 100m as, true to the form book, Dina Asher-Smith romped home to victory in a championship record of 10.96 seconds.  

Meanwhile, Katarina Johnson-Thompson was fussing over key areas of her heptathlon, placing fourth in the 100m hurdles and testing her mettle amongst elite shot-putters.

The victory in the women’s shot put? Sophie McKinna, who added the outdoor title to her indoor crown with a strong display that – albeit under 18 metres – confirmed her place in Doha.

Andy Butchart delivered a masterclass in the 5,000m by emphatically pulling away in the final kilometre, while Rosie Clarke hoovered up yet another domestic steeplechase medal.

There were also a number of heats and semi-finals that give British fans plenty to look forward to going into the second day, particularly in the highly-competitive 400m competitions.

Laviai Nielsen returned from injury with a strong performance in her heat, Emily Diamond showed that she’d be no pushover and Martyn Rooney boosted his relay hopes by qualifying for the final.

So, the curtain has fallen on an eventful day at the British Athletics Championships and Edoburun will go down as the final 100m champion at the Alexander Stadium as we know it. 

However, what better way to wave goodbye to a home straight soaked in sprinting history than with a taste of the next generation and the future to come?

Athletics is, after all, as cyclic as the track it’s contested on.

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