Play New : My Interview with Dina Asher - Smith
Being Britain’s fastest woman is one thing, Dina Asher-Smith is more than that. She is confident, determined and an icon to a generation of women in sports. Though she denies her role model status, her desire to use her platforms to encourage conversations surrounding the taboos of women in sport tells me otherwise. I sat with her in the gym at the track where she began her athletics journey. The best role models are the ones who inspire unintentionally. If you’re looking for some inspiration, Dina drops me several gems whilst we sit opposite each other in an open transparent conversation.
Knowing the example Dina has set for young women, I ask her exactly how it feels to be labelled as a role model. Sitting on the gym bench she breaks into a smile. “Obviously, it’s nice.” We both break into laughter. “It’s definitely an honor that somebody would look up to me in that way. But I think it’s strange for me, mainly because (in my head) I’m just normal.”
It is easy to just idolise those that you look up to, I fall victim to this often. Many aim to be just like their idols and set this as their ceiling however Dina encourages us to take it that one step further. “I’m like, thank you very much, [for] looking up to me; it’s really nice. But if anything, you shouldn’t just want to be me. You wanna be better than me. You wanna improve on whatever times I’ve set, improve on whatever personal achievements I’ve been able to do.”
Being a role model is more than just highlighting the issues, it’s doing something about it and also keeping it real. And Dina definitely keeps it real, especially when it comes to mother nature ! The conversation regarding boobs, periods & cramps is one of a taboo nature in the sporting world, as well as expressing the need to normalise the discussion surrounding the “normal things” women go through. Dina opens up about why it’s important to talk about these taboo subjects, especially for younger women in sports.
“It’s important that I’m pretty open about boobs, cramps, periods…simply because we don’t talk about it that much … It's about being open and honest with all the things that we all go through” Dina says. “You pass on that knowledge to be helpful and make sure that they (women) can lead a sporting life. I feel like if somebody asks you a question you owe it to them to give them an honest answer and help them talk through how I would do it or what I recommend.”
Speaking of recommendations, some of us ladies fall victim to the off craving when it’s that time of the month. Lately, Dina has had a craving for Mini Eggs. I guess Easter fever is still in the air !
There’s a perception that many young women feed into - the perception that to be an athlete you need to be the perfect version of yourself. In reality, perfection is a rarity. Dina finds the irony in this quite amusing. “When you’re in a major final, the run is rarely perfect”. Thinking back on her career, there were several moments of hard work and dedication which led her to be the best she can be on the day. “My job is to be the best-- when the gun goes
and I get to the end, I have to be the fastest. I have to be the best. It doesn’t mean that I have to be perfect in myself.”
Dina shares the story of when she broke her foot back in 2017. She only had a few months to heal and be ready for the World championships. “Normally, you give it, like, a year and a half, two years, but I’m stubborn… and I heal fast. I’m very fortunate And I work really hard. So, I think, all right, okay, it’s not gonna be perfect but I think that I can run on it.” That year, Dina came 4th in the 200M and was a Silver Medalist in the 4 × 100 metres relay. A proud achievement in light of the imperfect lead up to the competition.
As an athlete you learn so many lessons about your body, things you may not have even known. Despite healing from a broken foot, Dina pushed her boundaries and was rewarded as a result. “The most important lesson that Running has taught my body is that I actually don’t know my own limits.” We’ve all been there when our mind and body are on completely different wavelengths. “Sometimes I’ll be thinking okay, today I can run X [time] and my body says, oh, no, you’re in great shape; you’re gonna run Y” laughs Dina.
With perfections there are imperfections. After spending the afternoon watching Dina perfect her sprint starts on the track where she grew up, it was difficult to find any imperfections. Still sitting across from her in the gym, i had to ask if there were any moments where she may have felt pressured to hide any imperfections, forced to present a perfect version of herself. She started off by telling me “I’m not perfect. I am, by no means, perfect. I don’t think I’ve ever met a perfect person. I don’t think anybody in this world is perfect.” In dealing with pressure to hide any imperfections, she makes it known that it’s not something she succumbs to. “I’m very up front. When something’s not okay, I say it. If I’m not feeling okay, then I’m quite open with it.”