After a summer of tears and torment, Dina Asher-Smith could yet leave Tokyo with a gold medal after Britain’s 4x100m relay woman ran the fastest ever heat at an Olympics – and set a national record in the process.
With Asha Philip, Imani-Lara Lansiquot and Daryll Neita also producing strong performances as the British team crossed the line in 41.55 sec – faster than the gold-medal-winning times at all but two editions of the Olympic Games.
And Asher-Smith, whose Olympic ambitions for the 100m and 200m were knocked off course by a hamstring tear in June, believes more is to come from her – and the team.
“After the 100m I did say there was no way I wasn’t going to be here for the 4x100m girls,” she said. “I only had one day off then my coach John Blackie had me back on the training track. Essentially all I need is a few more weeks and sessions.
“He was saying if I had a few more days it would have been the 100m final, another week and it would have been 10.8. It’s one of those things where I’m chasing times. Give me a few more training sessions and I’ll be closer to where I’m used to being. There was no way I wasn’t going to be here.”
After the summer she has had, Asher-Smith said it would be “absolutely amazing” to win a medal. “But it is about me getting back on the training track and making sure I bring my absolute A game to this race,” she added. “Of course, it would mean incredible things to everybody. We are the bronze medallists in Rio. It would be amazing for us to get another medal again, for all of us, for all of our lives, for all of our individual dreams and aspirations.”
Britain’s men also offered a glimmer of hope in what has so far been a desperately disappointing Olympics for its track and field stars by qualifying in second in their heat behind Jamaica in 38.02 sec.
And with the US and South Africa bombing out, the men’s team of CJ Ujah, Zharnel Hughes, Richard Kilty, and Nathaneel Mitchell-Blake, also set their sights on gold.
“We want nothing but gold,” said Kilty. “There is more in the tank. Easy, easy, no problem at all. We knew we were going to play it safe there.”
Meanwhile the US Olympic great Carl Lewis called the American 4x100m team a “total embarrassment” and said they had done everything wrong as they came a shock sixth in their heat in 38.10s.
“The passing system is wrong, athletes running the wrong legs, and it was clear that there was no leadership,” said Lewis, who is now a coach at the University of Houston. “It was a total embarrassment, and completely unacceptable for a USA team to look worse than the Association of American University kids I saw.”
On paper the US team should have been favourites, with Ronnie Baker, Fred Kerley, Crayvon Gillespie and Travyon Bromell all in the team. When asked to explain what happened on the exchanges, Baker said: “We are all running fast right now. Fred is running 9.8 and I am running 9.8. Trying to time that up perfectly with a couple of practices is tough.”
”We’ve definitely got to pick it up for the world’s next year and the next Olympics because this is unacceptable,” added Gillespie.
There was at least better news for the US in the men’s shot put as Ryan Crouser set a new Olympic record of 22.93m in the men’s shot put. That was the US men’s first track and gold medal of these championships.
But there was a major shock in the men’s 110m hurdles final as Grant Holloway, the world record holder, could only take silver in a race won by the Jamaican Hansie Parchment in 13.05.