Dina Asher-Smith not thinking about the past ahead of world title defence

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Dina Asher-Smith knows the past counts for nothing.

The reigning 200m world champion will defend a major global title for the first time in her career at the World Championships in Eugene.

The Championships start on Friday with Asher-Smith, again, one of the biggest British hopes having won the 200m three years ago in Doha, after coming second behind Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in the 100m.

IAAF World Athletics Championships 2019 – Day Seven – Khalifa International Stadium
Asher-Smith won 200m gold and 100m silver in Doha (Martin Rickett/PA)

Asher-Smith previously defended her European 200m title in 2018 but – ahead of the quest to retain her world crown in America – admits she cannot dwell on previous achievements.

She told the PA news agency: “Sometimes I forget I’m world champion, mainly because it’s not how I think. It’s not that I’m trying to downplay it, it’s just that I take every season and race as a clean slate.

“That means anything which went before, good or bad, it doesn’t have any bearing on the future.

“It’s something I just don’t think about because races aren’t won on what you’ve done before, it’s what you do in the present. You have to stay focused and get it done.

“There is just so much talent all across the board. Mujinga (Kambundji) went sub-seven seconds for 60m, I cannot say how phenomenal that is. It’s amazing how quickly everything moves because people aren’t talking about that any more.

“It is motivating but it proves there are no limits, you shouldn’t put any limits on yourself. People are doing stuff, achieving things and running in ways that you haven’t seen in many people before.

“It’s even too presumptuous to call a semi-final and the final. That’s what I love about Championships, there are always a gazillion curveballs. Race to race, during the race things change. You can’t call it.

“It’s always too close to call anything.”

Asher-Smith opens her campaign in the 100m heats on Saturday in Oregon – early Sunday morning in the UK – ahead of an expected final appearance before the start of her 200m defence on Monday.

A 22.37 second win at the Stockholm Diamond League in June, her last race, failed to convince compared to Shericka Jackson’s 21.55 seconds – the third fastest of all time – in Jamaica’s world trials.

Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah finished second in 22.05 secs with her compatriot Fraser-Pryce third in 22.14s, leaving Asher-Smith needing to raise her game at Hayward Field.

It all came after she was beaten by in-form Daryll Neita in the 100m at the British Championships in Manchester last month.

The 26-year-old, though, has long insisted she does not focus on times and played down any suggestion she would need to set a new British record in the 200m, having clocked 21.89 seconds on the way to the title in Doha and 10.83 seconds to win 100m silver.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – Day Thirteen
Asher-Smith endured an injury-hit Olympic Games last year (Joe Giddens/PA)

“Maybe, I don’t know. Honestly, all I’m trying to do is be in the best possible shape I can be at that moment and give myself the tools to perform in the way which puts me in the best place and run the race plan,” she said.

“It’s sounds incredibly boring but if you start presuming times it just doesn’t always pan out like that. You would have never anticipated the times which were run in Tokyo.

“In London 2017 you wouldn’t have anticipated the times there, in Doha you wouldn’t have guessed for gold, silver or bronze. I don’t think in times.

“You’ve got to be in it to win it and focus on the phases, focus on being there and focus on beating them in each phase. It’s how you win the race.”

Asher-Smith comes into the Championships after last year’s injury nightmare wrecked her Olympics.

A hamstring tear in the trials put her Games under threat but she made it to Japan only to pull out of the 200m after failing to make the 100m semi-finals, although recovered to help Team GB to 4x100m bronze.

IAAF World Athletics Championships 2019 – Day Three – Khalifa International Stadium
Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce beat Asher-Smith to 100m gold in Doha. (Martin Rickett/PA)

This time, outside the headline loss to Neita in the trials, there have been few issues and Asher-Smith knows she needs to be perfect in what is a golden age of women’s sprinting.

“I think it is. It’s really exciting and it changes the nature of how you compete and how you do your year,” she said.

“When there’s nine of you who are all big names, everyone has a home Diamond League, everyone is a home favourite and the poster girl of their country, you’ve just got to get in and race. That’s how you get better.

“There’s no space to duck and dive. It’s back and forth, some weeks someone is jet-lagged, someone is on their third race, someone has had a break.

“You get to test out a lot of things. I’m just happy to be among the names which make that exciting. That’s great for me. It’s amazing when people think about a golden age of women’s sprinting you’re in there as well.

“That’s really nice, from a really boring, soppy, perspective. It makes me proud of myself that I can hold my own in that calibre.”

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