Dina Asher-Smith broke down in tears on Saturday after her Olympic dreams were wrecked by a hamstring injury.
The leading lady of British athletics failed to progress from the 100m semi-finals and then immediately pulled out of the 200m after revealing she has been battling a badly torn hamstring since the national trials last month.
While damage to her hamstring has been known since she pulled out of a race in Gateshead less than three weeks ago, the severity had been kept a close secret.
But it became devastatingly obvious that the 25-year-old was way off her pace in Friday’s heats and then the semi-finals on Saturday, where she ran only 11.05sec and finished third. After her elimination she indicated she still intends to pursue a podium finish in the 4x100m relay, but her bid to become Britain’s first female sprint medallist at an Olympics since 1960 is on hold until Paris 2024.
Dina Asher-Smith faced an anxious wait to see if she made the final after finishing third
Asher-Smith finished behind Elaine Thompson-Herah and Ajla del Ponte in her semi-final
Daryll Neita finished fourth in her semi-final and beat Asher-Smith to the fastest loser place
The 200m world champion, speaking shortly before Elaine Thompson-Herah won gold in an Olympic record 10.61sec, said: ‘It broke my heart because I am a competitor. It is the Olympics but there are plenty other championships for me to come and kill.
‘It’s been a crazy, intense and heart-breaking period. I was in the shape of my life. Without a doubt. I’m not trying to sound arrogate but that is where I was. If you had asked me six weeks ago, I was confident I was going to win this entire thing.’
In detailing the injury, Asher-Smith revealed she was diagnosed with a complete rupture of her hamstring after the British Championships on June 26, before that was softened after a desperate visit to the controversial Munich-based doctor Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt.
She then spent time on crutches and was unable to train in spikes until just 10 days ago.
She said: ‘I was told that day (at the British Championships) it was a rupture so that my hamstring and tendon were no longer attached and I would need surgery, and it would be three or four months until I walk again and then a year to sprinting.
‘That day I was just in floods of tears. That was a difficult 48-72 hours for me. It was insane. At that point I had a statement written, I probably still have it on my phone, ready to go out just before selection. I wasn’t going to be selected.
Neita made the final by just one thousandth of a second ahead of Asher-Smith’s time
‘I decided to go to the best sports doctors it the world in Germany to get an opinion on what kind of surgery I should have, whether if there was some hamstring left or whether I should have a plastic of metal attachment.
‘I had a call from the doctor in Germany saying I’ve looked at your scans and you need to get here because while you have torn it I don’t think it’s a rupture and if we get on it and really push there’s a chance you could be on the line in Tokyo.
‘I started crying and called the sectors saying, ‘Select me, select me if there’s a chance’.
‘I was on crutches, off crutches, learning how to fully extend it again, walk, drills, jog, run. We’re counting down.
‘We came back to the UK as it was time to fly to Toyko. I came on July 20 and put on spikes on the 21st and said lets go.’
Asher-Smith will now focus on the 4x100m relay after pulling out of her favoured 200m event
Despite Asher-Smith’s brave efforts to get on the start line, she was far off her personal best of 10.83sec in running 11.07sec in the heats and only managed to go marginally quicker in the semi-finals, where she was eliminated.
Breaking down in tears, Asher-Smith added: ‘The easiest thing would have been to turn around and say I’m not going to get on the plane – that would have saved my pride, it would have saved everything. But at the end of the day I’m an incredibly talented sprinter and I know what kind of calibre of athlete I am.
‘I’ve been dreaming about this for so long. It was just unless I couldn’t stand or do anything on that leg it wasn’t an option for me to give up because this is my life.’
Asked if she would contest the 4x100m relay on Friday, she said: ‘I’m doing the relay, 11.05 is incredibly useful in a relay leg.’
What Dina Asher-Smith said during her tearful interview with the BBC
‘I am so disappointed not to make the final because it’s Tokyo 2020 it’s everything I’ve trained for over the past two years but the last few weeks of my athlete life have been absolutely insane.
‘So I wanted to come and say obviously I’m really proud of Daryll because she’s had a fantastic championships and we thought 10.9 was on the cards for her and she’s done it and made the final and she absolutely deserves it.
‘But I wanted to be completely upfront with everybody on my form and life and just what happened.
‘So I pulled out of both Stockholm and Gateshead, and the last was obviously at home so that was more public because in the trial’s final I pulled my hamstring at 60 metres and I tore it pretty bad.
‘I was initially told in Manchester that it was a rupture and I would require surgery and it would take three to four months to come back so obviously it kind of was a lot to deal with because quite frankly with that diagnosis you’re like ‘I can’t go to Tokyo’ and we had this whole statement ready to go but then I thankfully got a second opinion and it was a slight misdiagnosis even though there was still quite a major tear but it wasn’t a rupture my hamstring was still attached.
‘So we turned over every single stone to make sure I could stand on the line and obviously through the process I’ve gone through the whole thing of running 10.97 at the trials, tearing my hamstring at 60 and shutting down and then going through the whole thing of ‘I can’t go’ but then there’s a chance.
‘Ultimately as a team and thank you to all my friends and family and obviously, the team that are here. Obviously all the doctors and amazing people in Germany who have worked relentlessly since the trials to get me back on my feet so I could race here today so I am grateful for all the word that I can stand here on the track and do the race tonight.
‘Obviously I wasn’t my normal self but it’s been quite a journey so I am really proud. The most frustrating thing for me I was in the shape of my life and I can say that with my hands on my heart. Six weeks ago I was very confident I can win this. Because I knew every part of my race my start, transition and finish was better than some of the fastest women in the world. But when you get a hurdle like that suddenly everything rejigs.
It’s been a journey and I am so proud to run here an 11.0 after a weeks worth of training. Because I spent four weeks trying to run again.’
On her participation in the 200m final
‘I think I am likely to pull out of the 200 and…’
Asher Smith then took a moment and looked away from the camera as she started to tear up.
‘Sorry, just because obviously the competitor in me…’
Asher-Smith stops again to take a moment before saying ‘we’ll let the start go and let me cry.’
She then looked away from the camera to watch the start of the next on-track race while trying to compose herself.
‘Okay we’re good. I am likely to pull out, well I am going to pull out I just had the chat with John. Because as a reigning world champion you just… I was in such good shape, you know the Olympic champion is not too much of a further step.
‘ I don’t want to cry on tv but because of the journey and having three weeks off running, a week running slowly and then the last week trying to get things going and fingers crossed hope for the best.
‘I’m really proud to be able to execute my races and get to this point but when you’re talking about the standard I want to be at and know that I’m capable of there are plenty more championships for me to come and kill.
‘We’re in the middle of a four to five year cycle. And yeah, I got a hamstring tear at the most inconvenient time but it doesn’t change the calibre of athlete I actually am.
‘If I want to showcase that I needed a few more weeks of more power training and speed endurance to fill that gap to when I was trying to run again.
‘John told me it’s a no and even though that broke my heart because I am a competitor, the 200 I would do it because that’s the athlete I am. But he’s wiser than me and it’s the Olympics but there is another one.’