Dina Asher-Smith lays down Tokyo marker with 200m win

Seb Coe, who knows a thing or two about winning Olympic titles, is convinced that Dina Asher-Smith will be Team GB’s poster girl in Tokyo. Her rivals in the 100m and 200m will have something to say about that, but there were encouraging signs as Asher-Smith blitzed her way to victory in her first outdoor race of the season in Savona.

Asher-Smith has not competed in the 200m since winning world championship gold in Doha in October 2019. But in a low-key meeting in Italy all her familiar traits – including a lightning start and a bend so exquisite that the Italian commentator shouted “mamma mia!” as she powered round it – were evident as she came home in 22.56sec.

The 25-year-old would have perhaps wanted to go a touch faster, given the Olympics are scheduled to start in 10 weeks. But her dominance was clear with her closest challenger, Britain’s Beth Dobbin, more than half a second back at 23.06sec.

“It’s good to be back on track and it’s good to be back doing the 200m,” Asher-Smith said. “It has been a year-and-a-half since the world championships in Qatar and since I was doing my last 200m, so it’s nice to be back over that distance again.”

However she knows bigger tests await, starting in 10 days when she races in Gateshead against the reigning 200m Olympic champion, Elaine Thompson-Herah, the double Olympic 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and the new American sensation Sha’Carri Richardson. “My next race is the Diamond League in Gateshead,” said Asher-Smith. “I am really excited to be running at home. It will be nice.”

Another Briton, Andrew Pozzi, opened his summer with victory in the 110m hurdles with 13.42sec. But the performance of the night came from the Italian Marcell Jacobs, who set the national record in the 100m with a storming 9.95sec run.