The queen of British sprinting has been dethroned. A year after her Olympic dreams were shattered by a hamstring injury at the British Championships, Dina Asher-Smith suffered another blow on the same stage just 20 days out from the World Championships when Daryll Neita inflicted a shock 100 metres defeat on her long-term rival.
Competitors since their early teenage years, the pair have risen the ranks together for more than a decade, with Asher-Smith habitually coming out on top. No longer is that the case.
Aided by a thunderous 3.8m/s tailwind in Manchester on a blustery Saturday afternoon, Neita, who reached the Olympic final last year, gained an early lead and was never reeled in, crossing the line in 10.80 seconds, as seen in the below video. Asher-Smith could only finish second in 10.87sec.
— British Athletics (@BritAthletics) June 25, 2022
While the wind makes the time ineligible for official records, the result will send shockwaves through British sprinting and raise major doubts over the defence of Asher-Smith’s world 200m title next month.
The national record holder over 100m and 200m last lost a race against an all-British field in 2017 when finishing sixth on her comeback appearance from a broken foot. This time there were no such excuses.
Neita said: “I’m super happy. I’ve worked so hard for this. To finally get the gold just means so much.
“Although our paths have been very different I’ve always known I’ve got a lot of potential and capability, it never deterred me.
“I’ve watched [Dina] do amazing things on the world stage and it’s been very inspiring. But I’ve always known I can do it too. This gives me a lot of confidence and I really believe there is no limit to me.”
A downbeat Asher-Smith said: “I’m annoyed because I’d rather win. Fuming because I don’t like losing.
“But I said to her face that I’m very happy for her. She’s worked really hard and improved so much over the years.
“Domestically, it’s really important to have that rivalry, to have someone else turning out the times. I am in good shape and things will come together at the right time.”
'I'm looking to change British sprinting forever'
The men’s 100m delivered a similarly surprising result with 21-year-old Welshman Jeremiah Azu producing the performance of his life to upset the big names and tear to victory in a wind-aided 9.90 seconds.
The diminutive Azu, who won European Under-23 gold last year, blitzed out of the blocks and maintained his lead throughout, riding another strong tailwind to beat fast-finishing, seasoned global stars Reece Prescod (9.94sec) and Zharnel Hughes (9.97sec).
The accompanying 2.5m/s wind means he is not eligible to be chosen by the British selectors for the World Championships team. However, he may yet be granted a place at next month’s event by virtue of his world ranking.
His time also means he now sits third on the British all-time, all-conditions list - not bad for a man whose official personal best remains just 10.16sec.
“I’ve had ‘2022 British champion’ on my phone screen since last year so to stand here and actually say it, I can’t believe it,” he said. “It’s just the beginning. I’m 21 and I’m looking to change British sprinting forever.”
1500m titles decided in contrasting ways
Any race will do well to provide a more thrilling finish than the men’s 1,500m this weekend, with Jake Wightman prevailing in a blanket four-way finish that featured Olympic bronze medalist Josh Kerr.
Wightman, an Olympic and world finalist, had never before won a British outdoor title but seized control in the home straight and edged to the narrowest of victories in 3:40.26, ahead of Neil Gourley (3:40.38), Kerr (3:40.63) and Jake Heyward (3:40.66).
“Every year, I come to the champs thinking it won’t be as hard as last year, and every year it gets harder,” said Wightman. “So just getting the win feels great.”
Despite missing out on the top-two automatic selection spots, Kerr is almost certain to be awarded the discretionary third spot on Britain’s World Championships team.
In stark contrast to the men’s race, the women’s 1,500m was such a simple exercise that Laura Muir was able throw in her own mid-race time-trial while cruising to victory.
In possession of a personal best 17 seconds quicker than all but one of her rivals, the Olympic silver medallist plonked herself last throughout the painfully slow early proceedings before suddenly springing to life just before the bell, destroying her competitors in the process and easing to a comprehensive victory in 4:12.91.
She later revealed her coach had given her instructions to undertake a personal 400m time-trial with 500m remaining.
“It’s unfortunate in the 1,500m right now, a lot of people are dropping out and doing different events because it’s usually a lot stronger than that,” said Muir, who was unable to run for two months earlier this year due to a hip issue. “It was all about coming through today and getting that World Championships place. I’m happy I’ve done that.”
Nine years after making her British Championships debut, Victoria Ohuruogu stepped out of her Olympic champion sister - and now coach - Christine’s shadow to win her first national 400m title and make her first senior team as an individual.
New British record holder Matt Hudson-Smith won the 400m, double world indoor long jump medalist Lorraine Ugen triumphed in the long jump, but former world 60m hurdles champion Andrew Pozzi only finished fourth in the 110m hurdles.