After ending the 2014 season with injury, prolific teenage sprinter Dina Asher-Smith is back and running faster than ever. SPIKES meets the Brit ahead of what could be a big year for the rising star.

It’s hard to have a conversation with Dina Asher-Smith without feeling enthused about life.

The half hour that SPIKES spends with her on the morning of the Sainsbury’s Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham is punctuated with laughter and lit up by the smiles of a 19-year-old girl enjoying life.

And once you’ve seen the British sprinter on the track, it’s hard to not feel equally enthused about the athlete’s prospects in the sport.

Since being a box carrier at London 2012, Asher-Smith has: won two golds (200m and 4x100m) at the 2013 Rieti European Junior Championships; won senior 4x100m bronze at the Moscow world champs; won the 100m at last year’s world juniors; set new British U20 records in both the 100m (11.14) and 200m (22.61). She has also begun studying history at King’s College University, London.

Asher-Smith’s transition from promising youth to prolific junior to serious senior has been near seamless. But shoot back a decade and her journey begins with a bag of sweets.

“In primary school, my friend Charlotte – she’s one of those people who’s like ‘Yeah sport! Let’s go to rounders club, dance club, everything!’ – said ‘Dina let’s go to running club’,” the Kent-born sprinter says.

“But I said ‘No, I don’t want to go and run. I’d rather just stay home and eat thanks!’ But she said ‘I’ll give you sweets if you come!’ So I was like ‘Okay!’.”

Lucky she likes to eat.

By signing up for running club she inadvertently entered herself into a local cross country race. Unlike food, cross country is something she “hated with a passion”.

“I was angry with Charlotte for that! But I did it, and because I don’t like to lose I just went and tried my best. Out of three or four hundred kids I came fifth.”

A string of impressive cross country results saw her invited to the Bees Academy, which is where she discovered track and, it turns out, field.

“I found out I could throw stuff as well,” she laughs. “I love doing hammer – it was so much fun! You just spin! I used to throw it well far as well. From what I can remember it was well far, probably about ten metres!”

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Asher-Smith wins the 200m junior final at the 2010 English Schools Championships

After knocking the hammer on the head, Asher-Smith found sprinting via the long jump. She also found her coach John Blackie, who still dutifully watches over her development.

Asher-Smith has an effortless, natural sprinting technique; but running was far from her only sporting concern growing up. From a young age she would run track, swim, dance, dive, and play netball and hockey.

“I knew that I wanted to go to the Olympics,” she says. “But at that point I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was just having fun.”

Out of all those sports, sprinting was where she really began to excel. She ran a world age 13 best 39.16 in the 300m in 2009, and won the English Schools Championships 200m title at U15, U17 and U20 levels.

Despite that pedigree, few would have predicted the stellar two seasons she has just enjoyed. Appearing at a senior world champs as a 17-year-old was undoubtedly a high point.

Though it was daunting for the youngest member of the GB team that travelled to Moscow, the experience has certainly helped her (as well as made her the youngest world champs medallist for 20 years).

“That was scary,” she says. “I remember standing there thinking ‘Ooh! Don’t mess up Dina!’. That was definitely one of the more high pressure situations.

“I’ve had quite a lot of competition experience, for my age anyway, I think I’m really fortunate. I think that’s what allows me to not be nervous.”

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The British team won 4x100m bronze in Moscow following the disqualification of the French for an illegal baton exchange

Asher-Smith’s 2014 season came to an end with a hamstring injury in the 200m final at the European Championships in Zurich. In the semis she had set a new 22.61 PB that catapulted her in to the world’s top 20 for the season.

Following a winter spent working on her strength and conditioning, Asher-Smith has returned looking sharp. She claimed the UK indoor 60m title in Sheffield in February, and posted the sixth fastest 60m time in the world with a when she breezed to a win in a 7.12 PB in Karlsruhe at the end of January.

In Birmingham it wasn’t to be: she withdrew shortly after our chat with a niggle, perhaps with an eye on this weekend’s European indoors, where form suggests she has a very real chance of a medal.

Her time from Karlsruhe ranks her second fastest European behind Dutch heptathlete turned sprinter Dafne Schippers. Asher-Smith thinks she can make the most of going into the Euro indoors in Prague this weekend as second favourite behind the reigning European outdoor 100m and 200m champion.

“Obviously I’d like to go in pre-race favourite, everybody would. But it kind of lulls you in to a false sense of security,” she says.

“For me, normally I prefer going in second. Then I’ve got something to target, something to aim for.”

British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith (Getty Images)

In early February, Asher-Smith won the 60m British senior indoor title in 7.15. At the same champs the previous year she won the 200m.

Asher-Smith is so focused on the future that when you draw her attention to her track record she responds in the same way she does most questions: with a smile and a laugh. While everyone else fusses, she is just busy doing what she’s done since she was a kid, enjoying her sport and her studies and working hard to be successful in both.

Her attitude blends carefree with deadly serious, best summed up by the way she describes going in to the 100m final in the Eugene world juniors last year, what her coach called her “primary goal” for the 2014 season.

“In my head I was like ‘I don’t see what can go wrong’.

“The only thing that could have gone wrong was if someone else ran amazingly quickly, but that’s not my problem. That’s one of those things you can’t control and you can’t worry about. The only thing I’ve got to concentrate on is me doing my job.”

She did her job there, and if she does it to the same effect in Prague then it would cap a fine indoor season. But even looking ahead to the outdoors, Asher-Smith, who is learning to drive so that her mum can “stop carting me around”, hasn’t yet set a clear goal.

This is in part due to a quirk in British Athletics’ selection rules (athletes cannot compete at both the European U23 champs and world champs), and also due to a reticence to assume the role of lead figure amongst the UK’s promising crop of young female sprinters.

“I don’t know what competitions I’ll be at in the outdoor season this year,” she says.

“Obviously I’m aiming for the world champs. At this age you kind of have to. But at the same time there are so many girls running quickly, I don’t think I can say.”

With her focus remaining on ending the indoor season in the same way she began it, Asher-Smith could complete her transition to serious senior in the best way possible, and, with the outdoor campaign to be concluded by a world champs, at just the right time.