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Asher-Smith goes for Olympic gold as 100m rival Okagbare fails drugs test


Nigerian star out of Briton’s semi-final after being provisionally suspended following positive test for human growth hormone

Asher-Smith: “I do have another level – of course I do, it’s an Olympics!”

Dina Asher-Smith flew to Tokyo telling airline staff there was nothing for them or her to worry about.

That when the pressure is on and the stakes are highest that is when she comes alive.

In the Olympic Stadium yesterday it didn’t quite look that way as she lost her first race for two years.

In the blue riband 100 metres that she has hopes of winning this lunchtime she qualified 11th quickest; the champion of Europe not even top Londoner.

Britain’s fastest woman was quick to dismiss concern, to point out the only goal in qualifying is a top-three finish and a pass to the semi-finals.

She insists the tight hamstring which caused her withdrawal from the Gateshead meet a fortnight ago has gone away.

And that the rarefied air of the Olympic environment, which so many struggle to cope with, is where she breathes most easily.







US sprinter Teahna Daniels edges out Asher-Smith in yesterday’s heat










Former Commonwealth champion Blessing Okagbare
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Image:

Stu Forster)



“I love a show, I love a stage, I love putting together a great performance when it matters, when the lights are really on,” she said.

Yet the sight of rivals Marie-Josee Ta Lou, Elaine Thompson Herah and supermum Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce tripping the light fantastic would have unsettled armchair British fans.

While the speed queen clocked 11.07 seconds, admittedly dialling it down over the last 20 metres, reigning champion Thompson Herah breezed to the fastest first round in Olympic history.








Asher-Smith: “I love a show, I love a stage, I love putting together a great performance when it matters, when the lights are really on”
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Image:

Getty Images)



And no sooner had the Jamaican delivered her 10.82 second-statement of intent than Ta Lou trumped it with 10.78secs.

All season long Asher-Smith has paid no heed to anyone else, secure in her belief that when it really matters she will have the tools to get the job done.

Sure enough she shrugged off yesterday as an irrelevance, insisting: “Today was just about making it through to the next round safely at the same time as knowing I’ve got another level to give.







Speed demon Dina clocked 11.07secs in her heat, qualifying her 11th fastest



“And I do have another level – of course I do, it’s an Olympics!

“Today, heat, qualify, make sure everything is good and I’m strong for tomorrow evening. Tomorrow is when you really want to go push it.”

Tomorrow is now today and at 11.15 this morning we will see how her ”grumpy” hammy of a fortnight ago responds to a semi-final against Thompson Herah.








Bookies favourite Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce takes World 100m gold ahead of Dinah Asher-Smith in Doha two years ago
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Image:

REUTERS)



It should also have contained another of the favourites but Nigerian star Blessing Okagbare was informed overnight that she has been provisionally suspended after testing positive for human growth hormone in an out of competition test on July 19.

That is one obstacle removed from the path of Asher-Smith who needs a top-two place to be sure of a place in the final at 1.10pm and an opportunity to win Britain’s first 100m Olympic medal since Dorothy Hyman took silver at the Rome Games of 1960.

Only a fool would dismiss the chances of the greatest female sprinter our country has produced on the basis of heats which can be interpreted any which way.








Elaine Thompson Herah, pictured winning gold in Rio, is back to her best
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Image:

REUTERS)



Probably better to look at her body of work in championships down the years where she has prided herself in always going faster than the time before.

“Obviously the stakes change but there’s absolutely nothing to be scared of,” she said. “Scary, what’s scary?”

Asher-Smith already expected to have to improve her British record of 10.83secs to get amongst the medals.








Londoner Daryl Neita ran a lifetime best 10.96 seconds in her heat
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Image:

PA Wire)



She will know now that is a given and that even if she doesn’t manage it team mate Daryl Neita well might.

After breaking 11 seconds for the first time, clocking 10.96, Neita admitted: “I don’t want to say it, but it felt like it could have been better.

“This track feels amazing, it’s going to be a very fast championships”.





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