Dafne Schippers successfully defended her 200m IAAF World Championship title as Britain’s Dina-Asher Smith came incredibly close to capping a remarkable comeback from injury with a medal in London.
The Dutchwoman, a bronze medallist in the 100m, hit the finish line first in 22.05 after fending off Marie-Josée Ta Lou’s Ivory Coast national record of 22.08 and Shaunae Miller-Uibo’s 22.15, the Bahamian going at least some way towards making up for the dramatic slip which cost her so dearly in the 400m earlier this week.
There was yet another fourth-place finish for the home side but it was the best performance in a global final for Asher-Smith, who broke her foot in February, as she ran an excellent 22.22.
There had been very little to separate the main contenders in qualifying but, when it came to the final, it was Schippers and Ta Lou who created a gap that could not be bridged by the chasing pack.
Schippers had come off the bend ahead yet was being pushed all the way by the 100m silver medallist. The champion in Beijing, however, held her nerve and her position.
The heavens may have opened just as the field, missing 100m champion Torri Bowie after she withdrew thanks to the after-effects of her fall as she struck gold, were introduced but there was a golden glow enveloping the 25-year-old as she lay down on the track to take in the moment.
For Asher-Smith, there was great pride but an undeniable feeling of what might have been, given what she managed to produce in a year coloured by that injury. There was more than a glimmer of a medal coming down the straight but the on-rushing Miller-Uibo – back in sixth coming off the bend – had just enough to deny the source of the home fans’ raucous cheering.
“I was so close! I had absolutely no idea that I could do that tonight,” said Asher-Smith. “I was just having fun, enjoying it and running as fast as I could.
“I got round the bend and I was doing well but I am a bend girl so I am normally doing well off the bend. Then I got to 50m to go and I was still doing well. With 20m to go I was still going well but out of the corner of my eye I saw others come through.
“I didn’t know I could do 22.22 so to run faster than I did last year in an Olympic year (she ran 22.31 to come fifth in the Rio final), I am over the moon with that.
“I was going through the motions, making sure that I was running technically correctly and hitting all my points but as you get to the bit, you hear the crowd and you think ‘keep going, keep going’!
“It hurts to just miss out but at the same time I am so happy to be that close. That was so close to my PB (22.07) that I am really happy. To finish fourth in a world final after having a broken foot is really good and my best-ever finish.
“We have had a few fourths but they are from the young ones so over the years that will definitely transform into podiums.”
Schippers was planning to relish standing on top of that world podium again, particularly after making a number of changes off the track and began being coached by Rana Reider.
“It was very important to win. I worked so hard in the last years and last year was not the easiest for me. I changed everything and got a new coach, so I’m very happy,” she said.
“It’s great, especially with a gold medal, I am very pleased. My secret is enjoying the sport and enjoying my racing. I feel a little bit nervous starting out, but I’m a final runner and I’m grateful for the experience now it’s over.”
Source: Euan Crumley| AW