A devastated Dina Asher-Smith on Saturday night abandoned her hopes of winning an individual Olympic title after revealing a torn hamstring was to blame for her crashing out of the 100-metre semi-finals.
Asher-Smith broke down in tears as she confirmed she was pulling out of next week's 200m sprint event, where she was among the favourites for gold, explaining that she had initially been told she would not even be able to compete in Tokyo after being diagnosed with a full hamstring rupture suffered while winning the British 100m title at the end of June.
A second diagnosis downgraded the injury to a tear, but she was a shadow of her best in Tokyo, finishing second in her 100m heat before she was then knocked out of the semi-finals.
Admirably open about the ordeal, she said she would no longer attempt to contest the 200m next week, but would remain part of the British 4x100m team.
“The easiest thing would have been to turn around and say I’m not going to get on the plane, that would have saved my pride,” she said. “But at the end of the day, I’m an incredibly talented sprinter and I know what kind of calibre of athlete I am.
“I’ve been dreaming about this for so long. Unless I couldn’t stand or do anything on that leg it wasn’t an option for me to give up because this is my life.
“It’s been a crazy, intense and heart-breaking period. It’s just such bad timing. If this had happened in March, April, or early May, you wouldn’t even know. People wouldn’t even care.”
Asher-Smith detailed how she immediately thought “that’s not good” after feeling a pull in her hamstring with 60 metres remaining in the British Championships final on June 26. She still managed to triumph in 10.97 seconds, but feared for her Olympic prospects straight away.
“I was told that day it was a rupture so my hamstring and tendon were no longer attached and I would need surgery, it would be three or four months until I walk again and then a year to sprinting,” she said.
“I just had floods of tears. That was a difficult 48 to 72 hours for me. It was insane. At that point I had a statement written ready to go out - I wasn’t going to be selected.”
She then flew to Germany to see Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt, the former Bayern Munich doctor who looked after Usain Bolt throughout his career.
He altered the diagnosis to a grade two tear, which usually requires six weeks of rest before a return to training.
Without the luxury of that time before the Olympics, Asher-Smith remained in Germany for two weeks, progressing from crutches to walking, jogging and eventually running.
She only returned to Britain to fly to Tokyo and put racing spikes back on for the first time just 10 days ago once she had arrived in Japan.
“Every doubt, every fear pops up so you have to make sure you deal with it,” she said. “The misdiagnosis didn’t cost me but psychologically it was a big blow.
“Suddenly I had these extremes. I ate everything - KFC, McDonald’s - because I thought, ‘I don’t care anymore.’”
It was immediately apparent she was not at her best when she faded to second in her 100m opening-round heat on Friday - her first defeat over any distance in 13 races this year.
She started Saturday night’s semi-final strongly but faded as the race went on and was only able to finish third in 11.05sec, well down on her 10.83sec personal best. With only the first two athletes in each semi-final gaining automatic qualification, that left her waiting to see if her time was good enough to qualify as a fastest loser. When results went against her, she was put out of her misery.
“It just wasn’t meant to be,” she said. “I know it must sound crazy, but I was just in excellent shape.
“Sometimes you just need a bit more time. If we had had a bit more time, which we don’t, an extra two or three weeks, I know what kind of athlete I am. I was in the shape of my life without a doubt.
“I am gutted. I have psychologically gone through it all, from: ‘Am I going to be in shape?’ to every day as I stretch out my hamstring thinking: ‘Oh, my form is dropping away, I’m losing tone, I might cry’.
“The blow has been consistent. It’s an awfully-timed injury.”
Crowned world 200m champion in 2019, Asher-Smith’s best chance of an individual Olympic medal was always expected to come in the longer sprint but she will now not line up in next week’s heats.
However, she insisted her Olympics are not over entirely and she intends to be part of the British 4x100m team, which will also feature Daryll Neita who unexpectedly surpassed Asher-Smith by reaching Saturday’s 100m final where she finished last. The 4x100m heats are not until Thursday, giving Asher-Smith extra time to build fitness.
“I’m doing the relay,” she confirmed. “11.05sec is incredibly useful in a relay leg, especially with Daryll.”