Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith ruled the roost in the sprints at the European Championships, but on Saturday, in front of an expectant British crowd at the Birmingham Diamond League meet, she will see if she can beat the best in the world.
The 22-year-old swept 100 metres, 200m and 4x100m relay titles in Berlin, but the likes of Jamaican legend Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, in-form Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou and Bahamas star Shaunae Miller-Uibo will oppose her over what should be a mouth-watering 200m.
British track and field fans will be in for a treat as also present will be men’s 100m champion Zharnel Hughes and 400m gold medallist Matt Hudson-Smith.
However, like Asher-Smith, it is one thing to be European champion, but throw the potent cocktail of Americans and Jamaicans into the sprint mix and the level of what is required to win goes up a level or two.
Asher-Smith, though, has been bathing in plaudits all week with the likes of Michael Johnson predicting that she can go on to win Olympic gold in 2020. Although she believes she still needs to run faster to achieve that she goes into Saturday’s race the only woman to have gone below 22 seconds this year.
Hughes, though, probably faces a tougher task to translate his 100m form in Berlin into another eye-catching success on home turf as he faces American wunderkind Noah Lyles, who will be seeking to make his first appearance in Britain a memorable one.
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The 21-year-old is the joint fastest man over the 100 this year, having timed 9.88 seconds in the national championships in Des Moines in June.
However, he will be seeking to perform better against another young American talent and world silver medallist Christian Coleman, who won in Rabat, earlier, in the season with Lyles back in third.
Coleman, the world 60m indoor champion, has not posted as fast a time this season as either Hughes or Lyles, but he has been bedevilled by hamstring problems. Lyles for his part is raring to go on his British athletics bow.
“I’m really excited to come over to the UK and race — it’s something that I feel like I’ve missed out on so far, so to have the opportunity to come and experience the atmosphere in Birmingham is really cool,” said Lyles.
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‘It’s not an “if”, it’s a when’
Lyles, who shone in the 200m last season winning at the Diamond League meetings in Shanghai and Brussels, says that the event on Saturday should be a humdinger given the best this season will be present.
“There are maybe a couple of guys that I haven’t raced against. But, I’ve had the pleasure of watching them race and truthfully going in, it makes me feel confident that we have all these athletes who are becoming big names and starting to run fast times, face off against each other,” he said.
Hughes, who timed 9.95sec to win the European title, says that he is not going into the race with an inferiority complex.
“I’m not there to make up the numbers — with the quality of the guys in the race I’ll be looking to run a really great time,” he said.
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Hudson-Smith also faces a tough test of his aspirations to translate his continental success into a global title victory down the line.
He faces amongst others two Botswanan stars in Commonwealth champion Isaac Makwala — who has not raced since late May due to injury — and African titleholder Baboloki Thebe, while America’s two-time Olympic triple jump gold medallist Christian Taylor will also be in the field.
Hudson-Smith — who reached the 2016 Olympic final — is not only chasing victory, but also breaking Iwan Thomas’s British record of 44.36sec, which has stood for 21 years.
“The record is going to come — it’s just a matter of time. It’s not an ‘if’, it’s when — everyone knows I can do it,” he said.
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