If the expectation of a nation weighed heavy on Dina Asher-Smith, it certainly didn’t show.
Coming round the bend in the 200m final at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, she was already in front. And as her stride lengthened down the straight, so did her lead, and she crossed the line in first place, in a British record of 21.88 seconds.
It was more than simply winning a race. Asher-Smith had staked her place in history as the first British woman to win a global title in the 100m or 200m sprint.
She was also the first British woman to win individual world medals in two events, and the first Briton – male or female – to bring three medals home from the World Athletics Championships, having also won silver in the 100m and the 4x100m relay.
“Everybody keeps saying world champion, world title, but it hasn’t sunk in,” she said. “I have dreamed of this and now it’s real.”
Her exploits in Doha marked the latest point in Asher-Smith’s trajectory to the top of world athletics. Her talent was obvious when she started racing as a schoolgirl in south east London.
Inspired to take up athletics a er watching Dame Kelly Holmes’ historic golden double at the Athens Olympics in 2004, the young Dina went on to dominate the English Schools Championships and became European junior 200m champion in 2013.
The following year she won 100m gold at the World Junior Championships, just weeks before learning she had achieved the A-Level grades she needed to study History at King’s College, London.
And one year later, while an undergraduate and just 19, she became the fastest British woman of all time, clocking 11.02 seconds in the 100m.
In 2016 she became European 200m champion, and also won her first Olympic medal, relay bronze in Rio. Remarkably, just four years previously she had been a volunteer kit carrier at London 2012.
Despite injury setbacks in 2017, she won relay silver at the World Championships, before coming home from the European Championships the following year with three gold medals.And then came this glorious, record-breaking, history-making summer.
Dina Asher-Smith is deservedly a sporting icon for her achievements on the track. But she also inspires the nation with her attitude off it.
“It sounds too cliched but Dina is the same now as she was then,”said Mick Jones, head coach of the Bromley Bees Academy, where eight-year-old Dina first started racing.
“Dina has not changed in 15, 16 odd years. She’s always bubbly, smiley, polite.”
Another coach from her early years, Paul Patten, added: “There is no falseness about what she does. She is still that bubbly and loving person who balances life in a way that most athletes can’t.”
Asher-Smith trains with Blackheath and Bromley Harriers, who share a track with the Bees, and she is happy to share her time with children just starting out in the sport.
Montell Douglas, a sprinter who also trained with the Harriers, and whose British record Asher-Smith broke, said: “I love that she’s stayed at the club. She is showing people that you can stay home grown, stay true to where you’re from and still be this sporting icon that people are inspired by.”