Doha 2019: Dina Asher-Smith makes history as Britain's first 200m world champion

ATHLETICS-WORLD-2019

The world is yours and everything in it, Dina Asher-Smith.

The beatific Brit has collected the 200-metre crown that media, pundits and fans alike had all placed on her head long before the World Athletics Championships even started.

However, even with the hype dialled up to 11 after the 100m final, Asher-Smith remained laser-focused and dismantled a field that had been stripped bare of sprinting's biggest names.

Elaine Thompson, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Dafne Schippers and countless others fell by the wayside on the path to a palace that Asher-Smith has conquered in Doha.

But to any suggestion that her victory was soft, kindly consider that Asher-Smith ran a quick enough time to have won 13 of the 17 World Championship finals in history.

Historic victory for Asher-Smith

The clocking? 21.88 seconds - yet another British record and personal best.

Asher-Smith dominated the race from the outset, transitioning effortlessly off the bend and maintaining her form to leave Brittany Brown and Mujinga Kambunji staring at her spike soles.

There was an infectious roar around the stadium, the British flag was quickly flung from the stands and Asher-Smith broke down with emotion when Iwan Thomas walked over to interview her.

The British champion was still teary-eyed when she came through the mixed zone, but was never far away from a wide smile that will, no doubt, be tattooed across her face well into the night.

"I don't think it's ever going to sink in to be honest," Asher-Smith admitted. "It's just been about growth and for me personally, just doing the best that I can every year and improving on my results.

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'Being world champion, it means so much'

"To be at a point where improving now means being world champion, it means so much. When I started this, I started athletics because I like it and I was sporty.

"I was fast, but I was never the fastest when I was younger, but I worked my way up. To now be in a position where I've worked so hard with my coach, John, and we're world champions together, it means the world."

And just before she left, I asked Asher-Smith what she would tell the young Dina - now in the knowledge she'd be a world champion - that went to her first World Championships in 2013.

The global star, smiling at the thought, replied: "I would firstly say: 'Just go and do well because you're never going to be as a nervous as you are right now.' I even thought about that tonight.

"When I started to get a bit nervous, I just reminded myself: 'You're not the Dina you were in Moscow.'

"'You're never going to be that young and unprepared and inexperienced. And you were successful then, so you can always do it.' Ironically, I always use her as a reference."

There's always this heart-warming sincerity to Asher-Smith, this disarming politeness that adheres her to everyone she meets, and it's for that reason that her victory will have touched so many.

17th IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 - Day Six

The heptathlon finally cranks into gear

Arguably day six's most significant detail was the beginning of the multi-eventing calendar and that, of course, meant Nafissatou Thiam vs Katarina Johnson-Thompson in the heptathlon.

And one event was all it took for Johnson-Thompson to prove she means business, lopping a massive chunk off her 100-metre hurdles PB with a sensational time of 13.09 seconds.

Naturally, Thiam and the Brit then exchanged championship heptathlon records, making history with a pair of 1.95-metre clearances in the high jump. 

Johnson-Thompson then bagged herself yet another personal best in the shot put, mitigating the ground lost to her Belgian rival by launching an impressive 13.86 metres.

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Johnson-Thompson leads after day one

The World Indoor champion followed that up with a season's best in the 200m, clocking 23.08 seconds and ensuring she enters the second day with the lead at 4,138 points.

But Thiam is hot on her tail with 4,042 points of her own and will be hoping to channel the same form that defeated a different Brit - Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill - three years ago.

"I'm happy with it. A season's best and outright PB's in two events," the Liverpudlian reflected.

"In the hurdles, never in all my scorecard-calculating career have I ever put 13.0 seconds down, so I'm really happy with that and surprised. But there's another day to negotiate tomorrow.

"I know that I'm in good shape and I know that I can contend, but I never think in terms of: 'I need to be in the lead by this many points.' At the end of the day, it's part of the job and you've got to know how fast you need to run."

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Holloway wins chaotic 110m hurdles

There was a changing of the guard in the men's sprint hurdles as Omar McLeod crashed out of the competition with a nasty fall, eventually hobbling across the line in over 17 seconds.

The Jamaican miraculously managed to clear another barrier after completely losing his footing, but eventually came crashing to the track and almost hauled Orlando Oretga down with him.

But truthfully, America's Grant Holloway had already etched his name on the gold medal with an electrifying start and technique that legitimised his world-leading time of 12.98 seconds.

It was 13.10 on this occasion, more than enough to keep Sergey Shubenkov at bay, and America can flaunt yet another rising talent from their collegiate conveyor belt.

17th IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 - Day Six

Shock semi-final exit for Norman

There was utter bewilderment in the men's 400m as Michael Norman, despite being the world-leader and reigning Diamond League champion, inexplicably crashed out in the semi-finals.

No injury, no fall, no breakdown. Nothing. 

Norman had entered the championships as an overwhelming favourite for his maiden gold medal and there were even suggestions that he could revise Wayde van Niekerk's world record.

In the end, the American looked completely zoned out, eventually ghosting through the line in 45.94 seconds and mysteriously telling the the media: "It just wasn't my day." You don't say.

Perhaps we can cautiously diagnose the situation as Norman succumbing to the pressures of a long season - and his departure blows the door wide open for his competitors.

Norman's conquerer at the US trials, Fred Kerley, will now enter Friday's final as the man to beat, but the 24-year-old can expect a stern challenge from Steven Gardiner and Kirani James.

17th IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 - Day Five

Muir returns to 1,500m action

It was brilliant to see Laura Muir back in the GB colours. The Scot had been absent from the circuit since her victory at the Anniversary Games and returned to fitness just in the knick of time.

Muir admitted she was feeling nervous about her comeback, but you wouldn't have known it as she battled through her heat - which was eventually won by Jenny Simpson - in a time of 4:07.34.

However, it was only inevitable that Muir was going to be asked about Sifan Hassan, the 10,000m world champion who had been training under the recently-banned Alberto Salazar.

It goes without saying that Hassan has had no allegations specifically levelled against her, but the Dutchwoman will struggle to escape the cloud of doubt that has come with the Salazar case.

17th IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 - Day Six

Action elsewhere in Doha

There are two Canadians, Damian Warner and Pierce LePage, leading the way in the decathlon after day one, but world-record holder Kevin Mayer remains finely poised in third place.

Britain will be represented by Eilish McColgan and Laura Weightman in the 5,000m final after both safely navigated a first round in which Hellen Obiri qualified fastest.

And Pawel Fajdek is officially the hammer throw world champion with a winning launch of 80.50 metres, enough to defeat fellow podium finishers Quentin Bigot and Bence Halasz. 

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Day six belongs to Asher-Smith

British readers, we owe Asher-Smith so much. First a silver medal and now a gold. Love her, appreciate her and celebrate her.

In the 23-year-old, we have one of the most talented sportspeople in the world, representing a country that has track and field in its blood, whether the public knows it or not.

Was there the 60,000 crowd her win deserved? No. Was there the world-class field she still could have been beaten? No. 

But the history books are brief, they only remember the winners, and Asher-Smith is just as imprinted on those pages as she will be in the memories of every fan who watched her.

As if recreating that famous photograph at Iwo Jima, Asher-Smith has hauled the Union Jack against the uphill battle that Doha 2019 has faced and planted it right into the summit.

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