Dina Asher-Smith’s injury brutally postponed her dreams and exposed Team GB’s failings in Tokyo… with a worst Olympic track haul since 1976 and questions over the value of UK Sport’s £23m funding looming
- Team GB are having a nightmare Olympics on the track so far this summer
- Dina Asher-Smith’s injury has forced her out of the 100m and 200m events
- Behind her there has been a lack of a plan B, after a farce in the men’s sprints
While Dina Asher-Smith was processing the incredibly brutal postponement of her Olympic aspirations, it was necessary to wonder where exactly the wider British athletics team have hidden their Plan B.
It wasn’t just the death of a dream that played out amid her tears on Saturday, because suddenly the paper has been pulled off the massive cracks Asher-Smith was concealing.
There have long been queries over the value in the £23 million of UK Sport funding for athletics and by extension the limited quality of the bloated team of 75 sent to Tokyo.
Dina Asher-Smith was supposed to head-up Team GB’s athletics squad but is now injured
Zharnel Hughes made the 100m final but a blatant false-start turned GB’s Games into a farce
With Asher-Smith out of the 100metres and 200m with hamstring trouble, only the 4x100m relay remains of what was supposed to be her three-pronged attack on the medals.
With the quartet’s hopes on Friday contingent on her fitness, the question is whether the team hierarchy have enough bullets to avoid their worst haul since 1976. Those Games in Montreal brought one medal and Athens in 2004 was the next lowest with four, and already this group is tracking to be somewhere in between.
To see Reece Prescod false start in a 100m semi-final, and then for Zharnel Hughes to do the same as the first Brit in the showpiece final since 2000, was to witness a layer of embarrassment on top of other concerning omens.
It was a bleak night at the track from the British point of view with three fringe hopes all failing to make their respective finals.
Reece Prescod made the same error as Hughes in the 100 semi-finals on a nightmare day
Elliot Giles fell short in the 800m final as Great Britain’s day kept going from bad to worse
Cindy Sember, who was fourth at Rio 2016, did not make the 100m hurdles final, Elliot Giles ran out of steam in his 800m semi-final, and Dan Rowden managed a quick time in another but hit traffic and finished fifth.
UK Athletics failed in an appeal for him to be let back in on the grounds of being impeded by the American Clayton Murphy. ‘I knew my potential was to win a medal and it’s disappointing that I couldn’t make that a reality,’ Rowden said.
Where next for the group? There remains a cohort of excellent middle-distance women, with three 800m runners into their final on Tuesday.
Jemma Reekie and Keely Hodgkinson each hold good chances, and Alex Bell has a charming story. She was only added to the team a fortnight ago after Laura Muir chose to focus solely on the 1500m.
She lost her funding in 2019 and has been working as a shop assistant but, as a finalist, she has a shot at something special. Likewise Muir, a proven world-class runner, who goes in a tough 1500m field.
Jemma Reekie holds some of Team GB’s final hopes to salvage the Tokyo games this summer
Beyond that group, the men’s 4x100m relay team has a possibility, as does Holly Bradshaw in the pole vault and the hurdler Andy Pozzi. But it is awfully thin, in part due to systemic failings around a sport that failed to capitalise on the 2012 legacy, and also due to bad luck.
What happened to Asher-Smith was unfortunate, as indeed was the ruptured achilles suffered by their only other world champion, Katarina Johnson-Thompson. She will compete but a medal is a unlikely.
The silver lining for UK Athletics is UK Sport’s decision to relax medal targets because of the pandemic disruptions. Prior to Covid-19, the funding body expected seven to nine. As we stand, those numbers belong to fantasy.