‘At Heathrow loads of the airline people said ‘are you nervous?’ I was like ‘No, what is there to be nervous about?’ (Image: PA)
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Dina Asher-Smith is ready to put on a show to inspire the nation when the 2020 Olympics finally get underway.
A year late and following months of doubt on so many fronts, the Tokyo torch will be lit at lunchtime today.
It is a moment many thought would not arrive, the threat of cancellation hanging over the event until late this week hours due to the continuing heath crisis.
Athletes remain gripped by the fear of either contracting Covid or being forced to isolate and see their dreams turn to dust.
Families, friends and supporters are banned from attending, competitors under orders to put medals round their own necks in DIY ceremonies.
Mask wearing is mandatory, there is to be no clapping and when you finish your event you are virtually run out of town.
Asher-Smith took relay bronze in Rio alongside Asha Philip, Desiree Henry and Daryll Neita
Yet the Ghost Games of the XXXII Olympiad WILL take place and Asher-Smith, for one, intends to make the best of it.
“I’m very much an ‘if not now, when?’ kind of girl,” said Britain’s fastest woman.
“The Olympic Games have been pushed back and postponed but they are the pinnacle of our sport, what so many of us have dreamed of since we were babies.
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“I’m unbelievably excited to be here and I hope I can do you all proud. The next fortnight has a great potential to inspire an entire generation.”
From Adam Peaty in the water to Helen Glover on it, from Jade Jones on the mat to the Kennys on two wheels, from Charlotte Dujardin on horseback to Pat McCormack in the ring, this is a British team bristling with intent.
None more so than Asher-Smith who has arrived in Japan armed with a “no-fear” attitude and a promise to herself to seize the moment.
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Inspired by the heroics of Gareth Southgate’s Euro finalists, she doesn’t just want to reprise that feelgood factor, she intends to build on it.
“I love a show, I love a stage, I love putting together a great performance when it matters, when the lights are really on,” she said.
“At Heathrow loads of the airline people said ‘are you nervous?’ I was like ‘No, what is there to be nervous about?’
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“Obviously this is on a different scale but I line up for a race and I’ve done that since I was eight years old and I’m very, very good at it.
“I love championships, quite frankly. I love the atmosphere, I love the vibe. It is about putting your best foot forward and being in the right mindset to win your races.”
This is Asher-Smith as we haven’t heard her before. The self confidence we have seen in her running since she was crowned world 200m champion in Doha before the Covid cloud arrived.
Helen Glover (left) and Women's Pair partner Polly Swann
But now, perhaps for the first time to such a degree, it has shown itself in her words, as her sprint rivals will today testify.
“It’s all well and good that you can run fast throughout the year – fantastic, congratulations,” she said. “It’s the big moments that matter.”
Sports data firm Gracenote predicts the British team will finish fifth in the medal table, a drop of three places from the high watermark of Rio.
'It is about putting your best foot forward and being in the right mindset to win your races'
(Image: Getty Images)
To go from 67 medals in Brazil to 52 this time, 27 golds in 2016 down to 14 here.
“Everybody has their predictions written down on paper, but we don’t run on paper,” is Asher-Smith’s response.
After a year for so many spent staring at four walls, Britain’s sports stars are ready to break out.