Dina Asher-Smith admits she's slowing down - but Olympics will see pace return

Great Britain’s golden girl steps up her Tokyo 2020 preparations in the Diamond League meeting at Gateshead on Sunday

Britain's Dina Asher-Smith is back in action at Gateshead on Sunday.

Even Dina Asher-Smith has to slow down sometimes.

Lockdown put the brakes on the runaway train that was the career of Britain’s sprint queen, a fiercely private person whose life became public property overnight.

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Ahead of her return to world-level racing in Gateshead tomorrow, the 25-year-old reflected on how it felt to come back down to earth.

Britain's Dina Asher-Smith is the reigning women's 200m world champion.

“The best thing about the last year for me was a change of pace,” said Asher-Smith.

“Even though everything in my life was progressive, it was changing quickly every single year. It was nice to step back and take a breath, because it was a lot.

“It was a change, people in the sport who’ve known me since I was a teenager now saw me on TV. It’s fun for people to see, but I’m not used to this.

“It was nice to get used to that, understand what it means and the extra time to get stronger.”

Asher-Smith’s Instagram grid is more Vogue than Athletics Weekly, a preening profile of luxury fashion shoots.

But in her sporting choices, there is nothing glamorous about this Bromley girl born-and-bred, opting to train not in Florida or California but suburban Kent.

Instead of joining new rival Sha’Carri Richardson in a war of words, Asher-Smith fired out a warning in the form of the gory details of John Blackie’s brutal strength regime.

“I’m much, much stronger physically than I was in 2019,” said the world 200m champion. “I’ve just had so much more time work, I’m so much more technically proficient.

“I’ve been doing things my coach has been hoping I could do for many years - now I can do them. I’m hoping I can do them straight off the bat.

“It’s only in the past few weeks, maybe the past three weeks, that I’ve stopped doing more than 300 ab exercises in a session.

“I’m so happy to start racing, because it’s hard when I’m not racing. It’s been an incredibly hard winter and I’m so excited to be racing, because it’s a respite from some very difficult training.”

She fends off hard-hitting questions with disarming charm, screwing up her face when asked about the latest version of the IOC’s COVID-19 ‘Playbooks’.

Asher-Smith joined Adam Gemili in voicing opposition to the IOC’s ban on podium protests in Tokyo, but with far more moderate language than her close friend.

“It’s a shame that those restrictions have been put in place, when you consider what’s happened in the world right now, even this week,” she said.

“I don’t want to incite anything, but it is a shame.”

If there is a chink in Asher-Smith’s armour, it’s well-hidden. Her lockdown attempts at playing golf and football are the closest she seems to come to stuffing up.

Even her school teachers couldn't find a fault.

“When I got older, my mum and dad didn’t want to go to parents’ evening, because they found it quite boring,” she said.

“All the teachers all said that I concentrate, I work hard, I’m interactive, so we’ve got nothing to say.”