Alumna Asher-Smith graduates to Gold Coast Games


TASS athletes are aiming for medals in track and field at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, with 19 TASS alumni named in Team England’s athletics squad.

Britain’s fastest woman Dina Asher-Smith, Olympic gold medallist Greg Rutherford and 400m specialist Perri Shakes-Drayton are among the selected athletes who have received TASS support during their careers.

Rising stars Tom Gale, Callum Wilkinson and Sarah McDonald, who were backed by TASS in the last academic year (2016/17), have also been announced in the team.

Asher-Smith will be making her senior Commonwealth debut having taken home gold at the 2011 Commonwealth Youth Games in the 200m and alongside TASS team mate, Jazmin Sawyers, in the relay.

The World silver medallist has been selected for both the 200m and 4x100m relay at next April’s event and it’s clear the 21-year-old is brimming with positivity.

“I’m looking forward to both events equally. The 200m as an individual that I’ve trained so long for, but also for that feeling when you come together as a relay team – it’s so special.

“And who wouldn’t want to go to a Games at the Gold Coast? Of course, everyone thought ‘I’ll put my name in the hat for that one’ – it’s a no brainer!”

“After an eventful year, I’d love to go there and finish in a medal position. I don’t think that’s too unrealistic after my performances at the world champs, but we’ll have to wait and see what the competition holds,” she said.

Having recently completed her undergraduate degree, earning a 2:1 in History, the King’s College student has been deservedly enjoying some down-time during the off-season.

“My degree was really interesting but, as all third-year students will know, the last year was extremely stressful with dissertations and exams, so coupled with breaking my foot, it wasn’t the most relaxed summer.

“Fortunately I was able to go away, so I had to choose Rome for the history. I’ve been to the pyramids but there’s so many places in the world I want to see like Machu Picchu. Hopefully in the future I’ll be able to visit all these historical landmarks.

“My dissertation was on the history of jazz music and focused on Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. I just fell in love with it. Track athlete by day, jazz historian by night…who would have thought?”

So why did Asher-Smith choose to juggle studying history with making sprinting history?

“I think uni makes you a more balanced person all round because sometimes it’s not healthy for your entire life to be sport. Like in my case, having smashed up my foot and knowing I had the world champs in less than six months, you could slip into being really negative.

“But having something else to focus on or that commands your attention, you can’t actually afford to be wallowing in your own despair. I literally had five days when I was like ‘oh no I broke my foot’ but then I knew my first dissertation draft was due in three days!

“I think that kind of balance is really beneficial. Yes, it’s stressful at times – but also it gives you a wider view of the world too. Especially as a history student, you get a much broader appreciation for people’s individual struggles to get where we are today.

“When you’ve got that kind of perspective on life, you’re a bit more laid back about it. And when you’re relaxed and happy with what you do, that translates to a better performance on the track. It’s not the be all and end all!”

The British record holder was supported by TASS in 2012/13 during her A levels, and accessed core services including strength and conditioning, lifestyle guidance and physiotherapy through her local TASS Delivery Site.

“The financial award was obviously helpful in taking some of the burden off my parents, but I think mentally it was that boost that TASS believes in you which really helped.

“When you’re a young athlete it’s that acknowledgement and support which gives you that extra confidence in your own ability. And thank goodness I stuck with it!”

Demonstrating wisdom beyond her years, Asher-Smith shares her advice for student-athletes who are just beginning their own dual career journeys.

“You’re not going to get anywhere without hard work. We all laugh and joke that a certain athlete got there by chilling and going out, but realistically they didn’t. Hard work goes for anything in life – whether it’s sport or studies, it’s irreplaceable.

“But at the same time patience is so important because you might have done the hard work but not see the results immediately.

“You’ve got to have faith that whilst you might not see the return the next day, or even in that season, just be confident that hopefully it will all come together in the long term.”

The 19 TASS alumni named in the Team England athletics squad are:

  • Andy Vernon (2004/05) – 10,000m
  • Desiree Henry (2011/12) – 100m + relay
  • Callum Wilkinson (2016/17)- 20k Race Walk
  • Dina Asher-Smith (2012/13) – 200m + relay
  • Tom Gale (2016/17) – High Jump
  • Dave King (2013/14, 2014/15) – 110m Hurdles
  • Adam Hague (2014/15) – Pole Vault
  • Luke Cutts – (2005/06) – Pole Vault
  • Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (2004/05) – 4×100 relay
  • Lucy Bryan (2011/12, 2012/13, 2014/15) – Pole Vault
  • Greg Rutherford (2004/05) – Long Jump
  • Emily Diamond (2011/12) – 4×400 relay
  • Jazmin Sawyers (2010/11, 2011/12) – Long Jump
  • Anyika Onuora (2004/05) – 4×400 relay
  • Perri Shakes-Drayton (2005/06) – 4×400 relay
  • Cheriece Hylton (2013/14, 2015/16) – 4×400 relay
  • Taylor Campbell (2014/15) – Hammer
  • Sarah McDonald (2016/17) – 1500m
  • Katie Snowden (2011/12, 2012/13) – 1500m