Dina Asher-Smith says her "heart goes out" to American sprint rival Sha'Carri Richardson, who was ruled out of the Tokyo Olympics following a one-month ban for cannabis use in the wake of her mother's death, writes Ben Bloom .
Richardson, the American champion and sixth-fastest 100-metre sprinter in history, had been expected to challenge for gold in Tokyo but admitted using cannabis after finding out her mother had died a few days before the US trials. Cannabis is legal in Oregon, where the competition took place, but is banned in professional athletics under anti-doping rules.
Her absence makes world 200m champion Asher-Smith's task of making the podium easier, but the British champion says she feels only sympathy for her rival.
"I feel sorry for her because her mother passed away," said Asher-Smith. "I even said to my mum: 'If you passed away I wouldn't have done the [Olympic] trials'. That's not a criticism, but emotionally it's a lot.
"I'm absolutely in no position to tell someone how to grieve, I don't think anybody is. That's the first thing that comes into my mind and that's why you feel sorry for her because she's grieving.Rules are rules, but the girl was grieving and so my heart goes out to her in that situation. Nobody wants to lose a parent. It's awful."
Even with Richardson's absence, the women's 100m is expected to be one of the toughest events to make the podium with Jamaica's Olympic champions Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah at the peak of their powers.
A raft of fast times worldwide means Asher-Smith – who has predominantly raced in poor conditions in Britain – is just ninth in the world this year. However, she insists she is in the shape of her life and adamant she can break her British record in Tokyo.
Asked about her rivals' fast times, she said: "It's not daunting or a motivator, simply because I'm inside my own body. I know what I can do.
"To me it's immaterial what people run around you because a championship is a completely different ball game. People always run fast – that's the sport. But it's the championships that really matter.
"It's all well and good that you can run fast throughout the year – fantastic, congratulations. But it's obviously the big moments that matter. That's one of my favourite places to perform."
Billed by Seb Coe as Britain's poster girl for these Olympics as she attempts to win medals in the 100m and 200m, Asher-Smith insisted she feels no pressure to deliver.
"At Heathrow, loads of the British Airways people said: 'Are you nervous?' I was like: 'No, what is there to be nervous about?" she said. "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.
"This is something I do week-in, week-out. There's absolutely nothing to be scared of. I love a show, I love a stage, I love putting together a great performance when it matters, when the lights are really on. That's just part of me. I love championships.
"My coach always tells me to quell my excitement throughout the season until the championships and then let it loose. I'm so unbelievably excited to be here."
When is the women’s 100m final?
The women’s 100m actually got underway on Friday, July 30, in the morning session in Japan (01:00-04:30 BST) with first round followed by the semi-final and final the next day. So that’s Saturday, July 31, both in the second session of the day. (11:00-13:55 BST). The actual final will be run at 13:50 BST on Saturday, July 31.
Where is it taking place?
Where can I watch it?
Eurosport are the main European rights holders for broadcasting the Olympics this year although the BBC will still be covering the big moments, such as the ceremonies, across their channels.
With Eurosport you will need a subscription. You can add it to your Sky, BT or Virgin contract or sign up to Eurosport Player for direct access.
Telegraph Sport will also be running a live blog of both Opening and Closing Ceremonies, so make sure you bookmark this page.
What are Dina Asher-Smith’s chances?
Based on the heats, perhaps not very strong. But as our correspondent Ben Bloom writes , it would be foolish to write Asher-Smith off.
She came home in 11.07 seconds in her first 100m heat, qualifying for the next round as 11th quickest.
But she is the fastest British woman in history and has been in good form this year as she prepares for a shot at sprint gold in Tokyo. She won 100m silver and 200m gold at the 2019 World Championships, and is also set to compete in the relay event with Team GB .
Olympic medals cannot be won or lost in May, but it was impossible to ignore the importance of such an emphatic win when Asher-Smith beat both Sha'Carri Richardson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce over 100 metres at Gateshead . However conditions were dire and both have since gone much faster, meaning Asher-Smith will be under no illusions she needs to raise the bar again.
Who else will be in the mix?
America’s newest star Sha’Carri Richardson won the 100m at the US Olympic trials in 10.86 seconds – the sixth fastest time in history – drawing comparisons with Florence Griffith-Joyner, the 1988 Olympic champion, and 10.49secs world record holder.
However she cannot now compete in the 100m event in Tokyo after testing positive for a chemical found in marijuana. Richardson tested positive at the Olympic trials and so her result is erased.
The 21-year-old accepted a 30-day suspension that ends July 27, which would be in time to run in the women’s relays, however she was not picked for the US team for that either.
In Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Asher-Smith faces an old adversary who has often proven the benchmark to success throughout her career. The Jamaican is a double Olympic 100m champion and has won four of six world titles available since 2008.
Fraser-Pryce, 34, was comprehensively beaten by Asher-Smith at Gateshead, but in her home country in Kingston she set down a real marker ahead of Tokyo 2020. Her time was behind only Florence Griffith Joyner's 10.49s set in 1988.
And don’t discredit fellow Jamaican Elaine Thompson-Herah, who won 100m and 200m gold at Rio 2016. World bronze medallist Marie-Josee Ta Lou, of the Ivory Coast, will also be in the mix.
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