Nino Severino: Dina Asher-Smith is the perfect role model for our young athletes
- Credit: PA
In his latest column, Nino Severino lauds Britain’s new sporting superstar, Dina Asher-Smith - and hopes her success will inspire youngsters to take up athletics.
I could not write my column this week without saluting Dina Asher-Smith, who placed herself in the sporting history books after winning 200 metres gold at the World Athletic Championships in Doha last week.
This achievement is significant for many reasons, but the one that really makes a difference to the thousands of young athletes all working hard across Great Britain is the fact that she is the first female Brit to win a major global sprint title - that's powerful fuel for hopes and dreams.
To put this achievement into perspective, Asher-Smith is the first Brit to win a world or Olympic sprint title since Linford Christie at Stuttgart 1993.
It was incredible to read that Dina and her coach John Blackie, who began this amazing sporting journey together, are still by each other's sides. He spotted her potential at the Blackheath and Bromley Athletics Club and has been coaching her since the age of eight.
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Dina's mother was also in Doha after the race and there were a lot of tears as they both embraced. I talk about the balance and harmony between the "sporting trilogy" of athlete, coach and parents, and it's clear this team has achieved this balance!
I live this experience personally myself, with my grand-daughter Yasmina Severino-Green, both of us living the daily discipline of tennis life, and earning the right to dream big.
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Only this morning both Yasmina and myself had a long conversation about Dina, how young she was when she started her journey, the challenges and hardships she had to endure, and the time and effort that needs to be invested to simply try and be a sporting champion.
I could tell in Yasmina's face, it really did make a difference to her, without a doubt she had a spring in her step after the chat.
One of the many challenges when aspiring to be a sporting champion is the very difficult balancing act of sport and education. Many of the young athletes I am very closely connected with are investing huge amounts of hours to heavy training workloads, with many of them still achieving great academic levels.
So it really pleased me to hear that Dina had taken the sport-education balance on, and came through with flying colours, achieving very well on an academic level and gaining very high grades.
Her school headteacher, Lorraine Richards, said of Dina: "To be able to do what she's done academically as well as the commitment that she's had to give to be where she is in sport, you know, that's amazing."
The message is it can be done - you just need to be tough!
During the education and training modules I deliver, I talk about developing a sporting personality and character, how athletes can be ultra-strong through training and competition, and also earn respect as a well-rounded human being away from sport - Dina has clearly achieved in this area as well.
Sanjay Ayre, Jaimacan sprinter said: "She was always so modest and one of the nicest people I ever met on the track."
Modest, humble, kind, considerate, caring, enthusiastic and bright are words that are continually used by people when describing Asher-Smith, from coaches and teachers to classmates and competitors. That's a great reflection on her, and an example to others.
Her success can be a positive for millions, I'm hoping that the world of athletics can use this global success to inspire many more children in the UK to take up the sport.
In November 2016 Sport England's Active Lives Survey recorded 249,000 people taking part regularly in track and field activities. By November 2018 that figure had fallen to 197,000.
So I was very interested to read that Louise Davison, who was in the year above Asher-Smith and ran 800m for Blackheath and Bromley Harriers, is actually now a teacher at the school Dina attended, and she has taken over the school's running club.
After Dina's win in Doha, Louise said "I've had 15 children come to me today and say 'Can I have a running club letter, they're really enthusiastic about joining, knowing that was where Dina started."
We have seen the emergence of a global athletics superstar and I, for one, am very excited she is from Great Britain - she's super-talented, a wonderful human being and humble too.
What an incredible story - the big question now is how much more can she achieve?