British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith set for another big year in 2019

 There is plenty to look forward to in the world of athletics in 2019, and one of the young athletes we would recommend keeping a close eye on is Dina Asher-Smith. The British sprinter enjoyed a fantastic 2018 and will be looking to hit new heights in the next 12 months, particularly at the World Championships set to take place in Qatar in September.

Born in south London, Asher-Smith was prodigiously talented even as a teenager. As a 13-year-old in 2009 she set a new age-specific world record in the 300 metres, completing the race in just 39.16 seconds. Three years later she qualified for the Junior World Championships, ultimately finishing seventh in the 200 metre final, an event which was won by Anthonique Strachan of the Bahamas. In 2013 it was Asher-Smith’s turn to taste victory, as she scooped two gold medals in the 200 metres and 4 x 100 metre relay at the European Junior Championships. That feeling of triumph is one she has experienced many times since.

The Brit first captured attention at senior level in 2015, when she came second in the 60 metres at the European Athletics Indoor Championships with a time of 7.08 seconds, the fastest finish of any teenager in history. Her 10.99 seconds in the 100 metres at that year’s London Anniversary Games was another fine achievement, as Asher-Smith became the first British woman to break the 11-second barrier.

A respectable fifth-place finish in the 200 metres at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro followed in 2016, while Asher-Smith scooped a bronze medal alongside Asha Philip, Desiree Henry and Daryll Neita in the 4 x 100 metres relay. An injury setback in 2017 halted her progress, but Asher-Smith bounced back to secure a silver medal in the 4 x 100 metres relay at the IAAF World Athletics Championships.

For all her prior accomplishments, there is no doubt that 2018 was the best season of Asher-Smith’s career so far. Great Britain’s 4 x 100 metres relay team went one better at the Commonwealth Games by finishing in first place, while Asher-Smith also took bronze in the 200 metres. The pinnacle came later in the year, though, when the London-born athlete won three gold medals in the 100 metres, 200 metres and 4 x 100 metres relay at the European Championships in Germany.

“I have been watching British athletics with the BBC since 2002 and in all that time I have not seen anyone like Dina Asher-Smith,” four-time Olympic champion Michael Johnson said last year.

“There have been athletes who have shown as much if not more potential in their junior career. British sprinting at junior level has always been good.

But at this point in their career, someone who has continued to improve year after year, can compete against the best in the world and has the full package, physically, mentally and in terms of their attitude? No. I don’t think I have seen anyone like her.”

That is high praise indeed from someone who enjoyed a brilliant athletics career himself, but Asher-Smith must not rest on her laurels. Olympic gold in 2020 should be the Brit’s long-term ambition, but she first needs to continue making progress in the next 12 months as she seeks to become the best female sprinter on the planet. One thing is for sure, though: Dina Asher-Smith is an athlete with the world at her feet.

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