The secret to Dina Asher-Smith's success, according to her coach

Keeping it simple before races and talking about “normal” things like makeup and hair has been key to Dina Asher-Smith’s success, according to her coach John Blackie.
Dina Asher-SmithDina Asher-Smith
Dina Asher-Smith

The 24-year-old became the first British female sprinter to win World Championship gold when she stormed to 200m victory in October, having already claimed silver in the 100m.

She went on to clinch another silver in the 4x100m relay in Doha and will look to add to her trophy cabinet on Sunday after being shortlisted for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award.

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But despite being the fastest British woman in recorded history, Blackie insists there is nothing particularly special about Asher-Smith’s pre-race routine.

“We talk about normal things like her makeup and her hair before a race,” he said.

“I don’t play with her head or get uptight about anything, and with everything she does I give her as much space as she needs, and I’m there if she needs me.

“Sometimes coaches say, ‘Get a really good start’, but I say ‘get a normal start’ because that’s good enough.

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“Why would I want to put more pressure on by emphasising a good start if it’s already good?”

Asher-Smith’s success in Qatar followed her three golds at last year’s European Championships in Berlin, where she became the first female Briton to win a treble at a major championships.

Blackie, who was speaking at the SJA British Sports Awards, first started working with Asher-Smith when she was just eight years old at Blackheath & Bromley Athletics Club.

And that long relationship, which has seen Asher-Smith previously describe her coach as effectively a family member, naturally impacts Blackie’s emotions on race-day.

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“If you’re not nervous you must be dead, it’s as simple as that,” he said.

“But I’m not too bad normally. I don’t get nagging doubts because I know how capable she is.

“I was pretty laid back in Doha for the 200m, and was much more nervous in Berlin last year.

“Because of Berlin, I was already happy this year that we were capable of achieving what was expected of us.”

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After such a successful year, it is no surprise to see Asher-Smith proving as dominant in end-of-year awards ceremonies as she has been on the track.

But despite all the adulation, Blackie is confident his athlete will have no issues with going into next year’s Olympics as the poster girl for Team GB.

“Dina will cope fine with all the expectation,” he said.

“We get a lot of extraneous pressure, but once we’re at a competition we don’t allow ourselves to get side-tracked.

“We now lead into Tokyo after a very successful first two years of a three-year cycle in Berlin and Doha.

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“I expect she will race in both events next summer, and we will treat them both equally.

“There’s a lot of hard work to be done in training and competitions before Tokyo, but at the moment we’re in a really good position.”