It was a case of deja-vu as evening six of the European Championships in Berlin saw Dina Asher-Smith (coach: John Blackie; club: Blackheath & Bromley) claim 200m gold in a stunning British record time to complete a historic sprint double on a night which also saw Shara Proctor (Rana Reider; Birchfield Harriers) and both 4x400m relay teams win medals.
Fresh from smashing the British record and setting a world lead en route to 100m gold earlier in the week, Asher-Smith dominated the final of the 200m from gun to tape to leave the field in her wake and post a time that stands at both the new British record and again the fastest time in the world this year.
With plenty of expectation on her shoulders, the 22-year-old remained unfazed to blast out of the blocks and pass those directly outside of her almost immediately,
Putting together a magnificent bend sequence, Asher-Smith came into the home straight with a sizeable lead and gold in her sights. With world champion Dafne Schippers (NED) looking to close, a final push for the line saw gold clinched in a time of 21.89, a huge revision of her own British record which previously stood at 22.07, as well as the quickest time in the world this year.
“The race was over in a blur; I remember crossing the line and it was like a mixture of happiness and relief that I got it, but yeah, 21.8, honestly I haven’t taken it in yet. 10.8 and 21.8 is more than I could have asked for from this,” said an ecstatic Asher-Smith post-race, with the feat all the more spectacular as victory saw her become the first British female in history to retain a European title.
“This year I told myself that I at least wanted to run a 10.8 – I had a joke with my physio that if I run 10.8 I can buy myself a little cute necklace that I’ve been eyeing up. But I didn’t have a time in my head coming into the 200m because I’d done the 100m already and didn’t know how tired I’d be.”
Behind the medal placings, and both racing in their first major finals in British vests, Bianca Williams (Lloyd Cowan; Enfield & Haringey) and Beth Dobbin (Leon Baptiste; Edinburgh) placed in sixth and seventh respectively, Williams running 22.88 to Dobbin’s 22.93.
Claiming a superb bronze, a thoroughly entertaining and topsy-turvy women’s long jump final saw Proctor add a European medal to previous World and Commonwealth successes, with the final podium placings going right to the wire.
Opening up with a strong 6.58m (-1.0) to take some of the early initiative and be confident of receiving three further attempts past round three, Proctor improved to 6.69m (-0.3) in round four to move into silver, with compatriot Jazmin Sawyers (Lance Brauman; City of Stoke) also going well as 6.66m in round five bumped her up into bronze just three centimetres behind her teammate.
Come round six it was all change as a leap of 6.67m (0.5) from Maryna Bekh (UKR) trumped both the Brits and saw her move into silver. Amazingly Sawyers then matched the feat, with a stronger second mark in the series putting her on course for a second consecutive European medal.
Bekh then went one better than both Brits to land a 6.73m (-0.1) jump. With one jump remaining, Proctor mustered everything in an attempt to better her mark and clinch gold – a medal won with a distance of 6.75m by home-favourite Malaika Mihambo – with a slight improvement of 6.70m seeing her settle for bronze as Sawyers took fourth.
Reflecting on a second international medal of the year, Proctor said: “That definitely made it worth it for me – the fact that I had to battle a bunch of other talented women; the wind, the atmosphere – they were cheering for the Germans of course so I had to use that energy to propel me.
“I came away with a medal, I’m not happy with a bronze. I wanted a gold, but you know what? It’s better to have that than to not – so I am satisfied; we got the job done.”
The current world leader, Lorraine Ugen (Shawn Jackson; Thames Valley) suffered disappointment as an off day saw her fail to make the top eight after three jumps to leave her exiting the competition.
Bouncing back from a foul in the opening round, Ugen put a mark of 6.45m (-1.1), only for marks from fellow competitors to know her down into ninth place and needing an improvement with her third and final jump in order to receive another three attempts, a feat she couldn’t manage as she no fouled once again on the board.
Bringing the Great Britain & Northern Ireland medal tally to 12 medals overall with one event more following afterwards this evening, the men’s 4x400m delivered once again on the continent to bring home silver.