Athletics: British sprinters enjoy a golden night in Berlin
Dina Asher-Smith and Zharnel Hughes win 100m gold at the European Championships
British sprinting enjoyed its best night in years as Dina Asher-Smith and Zharnel Hughes won gold in the 100m at the European Athletics Championship.
Asher-Smith beat defending champion Dafne Schippers to become the first British woman in 56 years to win the European 100m title.
Twenty minutes later, Hughes took gold ahead of Reece Prescod in the first one-two for British sprinters since Darren Campbell and Dwain Chambers in the 1998 Euros.
The third British sprinter in the men’s race, Chijindu Ujah, finished fourth. Ujah was denied the bronze medal by Jak Ali Harvey of Turkey.
France’s Jimmy Vicaut had been the pre-race favourite, having won his semi-final in a championship record of 9.97sec, but 30 minutes before the final it was announced that he had suffered an injury in the warm-up and wouldn’t be participating.
That left the field open for the British trio, and they all got good starts in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium. But while Ujah faded in the final 30 metres, Hughes and Prescod powered towards the line, the former holding on for victory in 9.95 (a new championship record), one-hundredth of a second ahead of Prescod, who broke the ten-second barrier for the first time.
“I am happy and the job is done,” said Hughes. “I felt a bit of cramp so I don’t think I could have gone any faster but I’m just happy. Prescod is a fast finisher, so I knew I had to stay relaxed as he would challenge me towards the end.”
Twenty-three year-old Hughes and Asher-Smith, a year younger, were a couple until their relationship ended earlier this year, but they supported each other on a golden night for British athletics.
Asher-Smith’s victory brings to an end nearly 50 years of hurt for Britain’s 100m women sprinters - the last woman to win gold in the Euros was Dorothy Hyman, a miner’s daughter from Yorkshire, who crossed the line first in 1962.
But Asher-Smith’s performance suggests that the next few years will be glorious ones for British athletics. Her time of 10.85 was not only a new national record, it was also the fastest 100m time in the world this year.
“I did everything right,” exclaimed Asher-Smith. “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.”
The other British athlete in the race, Imani-Lara Lansiquot, finished sixth in a time of 11.14.
Eyeing a hat-trick
Asher-Smith, who in recent years has combined athletics with a history degree at King’s College London, now has her sights set on winning the 200m gold and the 4x100m relay, something that no Briton has ever achieved.
“I’m going to let myself enjoy the emotional high but then refocus,” said Asher-Smith. “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… but I have said to myself ‘I’m here to win, I’m not taking any less’.”