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If the winning time did little to send shivers through her main global title rivals, Dina Asher-Smith’s 100 metres victory at the Birmingham Diamond League nonetheless provided plenty of encouragement for her aspirations of making the World Championships podium later this summer.
In chilly conditions and on what appears to be a worryingly slow track at the newly renovated £72 million Alexander Stadium, this was not a day for fast times. So all Asher-Smith could do was concentrate on beating those standing alongside her, some of whom were significant scalps.
Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson won Olympic 100m bronze last summer, while America’s Gabby Thomas did likewise over 200m. Indeed, both women had finished ahead of Asher-Smith at last week’s Doha Diamond League over 200m.
Back over the shorter sprint distance on Saturday, Asher-Smith turned the tables on that pair to triumph in 11.11 seconds in her first 100m appearance of the year. Jackson was a close second in 11.12sec, with Britain’s Olympic 100m finalist Daryll Neita third in 11.14sec. Thomas finished fifth.
“I feel like I’ve progressed,” said Asher-Smith. “I do believe I have more scope in both 100m and 200m, and we’ve worked really hard over the past three years to get that.
“I’ve never been much of a time person because sometimes you can execute a recipe of movements and it’s a mad headwind or it’s freezing cold. I just don’t think it’s ever wise to get bogged down in whether it’s a good time, although I’ll take it.
“If it’s not such a good time there are so many things that contribute and so many of them are out of your control. I don’t tend to focus on it.”
On a mixed day for Britain’s Olympic medallists, there were also morale-boosting wins for Keely Hodgkinson and Laura Muir, both of whom claimed silver in Tokyo but suffered injury problems this winter.
Hodgkinson had been an overwhelming favourite to win the world indoor title in March, only to withdraw half an hour before her heat with a minor quadriceps problem.
Competing for the first time since, she made light work of a tricky 800m field in Birmingham, dictating from the outset and easing to victory in 1:58.63.
“I wasn’t quite planning on being at the front but I just tried to play to my strengths, felt strong and got the win,” she said.
“There are definitely some things to work on to try and get faster. Having run 1.55 last year, my aim this year is to be running 1.58s, 1.57s, 1.56s consistently. I want to be more consistent throughout the year.”
Muir was also racing for the first time since picking up a hip issue, which she described as “the most significant injury I’ve ever had” and prevented her from running for two months. Despite admitting she was still only at 90 per cent fitness, she front-ran her way to victory in 4:02.81, although then suggested she may not have sufficient time to return to her best for July’s World Championships.
“I don’t think I’ve had that long a break since I started at 11 or 12 years old,” said Muir. “It’s really good to be back. I didn’t even think I’d be running here today so not just to be running but to be competitive and winning, I’m very happy.
“Whether full fitness comes at the World Championships or later in the year, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Competing at a major British meet for the first time since winning Olympic bronze, Holly Bradshaw failed to clear any height in the pole vault, while fellow Olympic bronze medallist Josh Kerr finished fifth in the 1,500m.
There was a notable 400m victory for former European champion Matthew Hudson-Smith, but no such joy for the British men’s 4x100m team, who failed to get the baton round in their first race since being stripped of Olympic silver due to CJ Ujah’s positive drugs test.
Earlier, Zharnel Hughes provoked the ire of four-time Olympic champion Michael Johnson after following 100m false-starts at last year’s British Championships and Olympic with another here. “He’s taking a lane that should go to someone who’s going to finish the race,” said Johnson.
Trayvon Bromell, the fastest man in the field, also false-started, leaving Canada’s Aaron Brown to triumph in a sluggish 10.13sec.
Before the action began, London 2012 Olympic high jumper Robbie Grabarz received his upgraded silver medal in his home city.