August 07, 2018
In a stadium suffused with history, and on a night broiling with heat and high expectations, Dina Asher-Smith and Zharnel Hughes produced performances for the ages to claim double European 100m glory for Britain.
Dina Asher-Smith and Zharnel Hughes storm to 100m Euro gold
First to strike in temperatures that drifted into the mid-30s was Asher-Smith, who smashed her own national record to win gold in 10.85sec – a staggering performance that also made her the first Briton to win this event since Dorothy Hyman, a miner’s daughter from Yorkshire, in 1962.
Then, 20 minutes later, two Britons went toe-to-toe in a breathtaking men’s 100m battle with Zharnel Hughes taking the gold medal on the dip to win in 9.95sec – a new championship record – from Reece Prescod.
Prescod’s consolation is a silver medal and a new personal best of 9.96. But at one stage, as he loomed on his teammate’s shoulder, he must have sniffed the possibility of even more.
That encounter was certainly the race of the evening. But there was no doubting what will linger longest in the memory: the sight of the 22-year-old Asher-Smith powering away from the field to set the fastest 100m time in the world this year.
Behind her was the home favourite Gina Lückenkemper, 21, who claimed silver in 10.98 – a new personal best – while the Dutch athlete Dafne Schippers was third 0.01 further back. Britain’s other representative in the final, Imani-Lara Lansiquot, was sixth in 11.14. But they were battling for the minor medals from almost the first stride. “I am so happy,” said Asher-Smith. “To run a 10.8 in the championships is a big deal. I did everything right. I knew I had it in me but anything can happen in finals.
“I did everything right. I was so happy to nail it in the final because I know there are so many talented people around me but you have to ignore that.”
Last year Asher-Smith finished a history degree at King’s College, London. Now, in the stadium where Jesse Owens defied the Nazis and Usain Bolt set a world 100m in 2009, she was determined to create her own.
That much was obvious in the way she destroyed Schippers, who had beaten her at every major championship final they had contested since the 2014 Europeans – a run that stretched through the 2015 world championships, the 2016 Olympics and last year’s worlds in London.
What made this victory even sweeter was that in 2017 Asher-Smith spent months recovering from a broken foot that made her fear whether she would ever be the same athlete again. She was right in one respect. She is not the same athlete. She is better. Much better.
Dina Asher-Smith and Zharnel Hughes storm to 100m Euro gold
Yet amid the euphoria of this victory there was also an impressively icy calm, with Asher-Smith maintaining that her job in Berlin this week is only a third done. Next up is a rematch with Schippers over 200m before, if all goes well, attempting a third gold in the 4x100m relay at the weekend. No Briton has ever won the sprint treble – a feat last achieved by the East German Katrin Krabbe in 1990 – and Asher-Smith appears determined to change that.
“I’m going to let myself enjoy the emotional high but then refocus,” she added. “I have to take the 200m like another championship, it’s a completely clean slate because I’m only one third of the way there.
“You don’t know what those girls are going to bring, some of them haven’t run the 100m, so we’ll have to see. But I have said to myself ’I’m here to win, I’m not taking any less.’”
Eyes then switched to the men’s 100m and the possibility of the first British 1-2-3 at the Europeans since 1986 when Seb Coe, Tom McKean and Steve Cram claimed all three medals in the men’s 800m.
Those chances seemed to rise sharply when the Frenchman Jimmy Vicaut, who had run a European Championship record of 9.97 in his semi-final, pulled out 30 minutes before the final after feeling a niggle during his warm-up.
When the gun went off, Hughes was perhaps quickest away with Prescod and CJ Ujah chasing hard behind. With 30 metres remaining Ujah began to fade, eventually finishing fourth in 10.06 behind the Turk Jack Ali Harvey. But Prescod kept pushing to the line and only just lost out on the dip.
“I am happy and the job is done. I felt a bit of cramp so I don’t think I could have gone any faster but I’m just happy,” said Hughes. “Prescod is a fast finisher, so I knew I had to stay relaxed as he would challenge me towards the end. I am happy that we came out victorious.”
As he spoke Asher-Smith was already heading to the tunnel, away from the fans who had vigorously cheered her name to tell the world: “I am hoping to do the same thing that I did today in Tokyo!”
And after this victory, why not? Today, queen of Europe. Next year and in 2020, the world?
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