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Dina Asher-Smith insisted this week that her “grumpy” hamstring had cheered up, but on the evidence of her Olympic semi-final it may have hampered her preparation enough to disrupt her usual flow. The 25-year-old had crushed several major rivals only a few weeks ago at the British Grand Prix in Gateshead, yet here she finished third in a time of 11.05, way short of her personal best and the national record of 10.83. The performance was not enough to qualify for the women’s 100m final, even as a fastest finisher.
It was a shock, but it was not entirely unexpected. She withdrew from Gateshead after that 100m win with the injury in order to protect herself before these Olympics but ran a ragged heat on Friday, finishing second. Afterwards she said had “another level” to find, but she couldn’t locate it on a sticky night in Tokyo.
Aged 25, this was meant to be her peak Games, adding more medals to the silver and gold she collected in the 100m and 200m at the 2019 World Championships. Instead she looked well off her flowing best, seemingly running with heavy legs and the tension showing in her face, and there are now major doubts over whether she can deliver in her preferred 200m.
Britain do have a finalist after teammate Darryl Neita carried her impressive form from the heats into these semi-finals to qualify as one of the next to fastest finishers with a time of 11.00 sec exactly. Britain’s third entrant, Asha Philip, finished eighth in her race.
The front runners set a ferocious pace, with Jamaica’s reigning Olympic champion Elaine Herah-Thompson winning Asher-Smith’s heat in 10.76 ahead of Switzerland’s Ajla del Ponte. The Ivory Coast’s Marie-Josee Ta Lou won heat two in a photo finish with Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson, both posting 10.79.
The best was saved until last. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is 34 but the double Olympic champion gets better with age, and looks primed to win back the 100m title she won in Beijing and London after collecting bronze in Rio. She won race three in 10.73 and looked silky smooth doing it. Another Swiss sprinter, Mujinga Kambundji finished second and America’s Teahna Daniels finished third. Neita was fourth, but her time was good enough to book a place in her first Olympic final.
Former Olympic champion Michael Johnson admitted there is concern over Asher-Smith’s form: “I don’t think it’s there in terms of that sharpness, she should be ahead of Del Ponte. The second problem is to pick up that power at the end of the race to maintain that lead and it just isn’t there. It’s typical Asher-Smith, but now Del Ponte is coming through and she’s slowing down.”
Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare was absent from the first semi-final after being provisionally suspended after a positive test for human growth hormone.