The stage is set. The gauntlet has been laid down. In Tokyo, Team GB’s Dina Asher-Smith will be aiming to turn her World Championship gold medal into an Olympic one on the track, and become the first British athlete since Linford Christie to take home a sprint gold.
Her challenge has just become even bigger, however, with the news that rival Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce will compete in both the 100m and 200m at the games. But every top athlete wants to beat the best, and Asher-Smith is no different. She will welcome this news, and focus firmly on her road to glory.
Fraser-Pryce only fully returned to the sport last year after having her son Zyon in 2017, the Jamaican champion is keen to fend off the young guns and become the oldest women to win a 100m Olympic title, having won at that distance four times at the World Championships.
She began training ten weeks after Zyon's birth, but had to run with a special band stabilising her stomach following a caesarean section. Zyon accompanied her on a lap of honour after her 100m triumph in Doha.
“The plan last year was to do the double, and my coach decided he didn't want me doing the double, considering I just came back off a break," Fraser-Pryce told BBC Sport. "So, this year we are attempting to do the 100 and the 200, and my programme has been geared towards that."
And becoming a mother hasn’t impacted on her ability to perform on the track.
She beat Asher-Smith to the gold in Doha over the shorter distance the last time the pair met, but it is in the Brit’s specialist event, the 200m, that Fraser-Pryce is also targeting gold. At the World Championships last year, the two best female sprinters on the planet did not duel around the bend as Fraser-Pryce’s coaching team decided to limit her to her preferred race, given it was her first season back. She still left that meet with two golds, having also won the 4x100m relay as well as the 100m.
So, who is set to come out on top in Japan? Asher-Smith had her best ever season last year, setting personal bests and two National Records across both distances in Doha and if she can repeat the trick, she has a good chance of beating the 33-year-old, at least over the 200m. Her PB currently stands at 21.88 in comparison to Fraser-Pryce’s 22.09 set way back in 2012.
However, the 100m is the Jamaican’s territory. She has already won two Olympic golds over that distance and only three women in history have run faster than her over the distance, including Florence Griffith-Joyner and her controversial world record in 1988.
At just five feet tall, Fraser-Pryce is able to use her short strides to power away from her opponents, although this advantage becomes a disadvantage over the longer distance. Asher-Smith’s five-inch height advantage means that her strides are longer and she can take fewer of them, allowing her to make up ground over the second half of the 200m. One thing is for sure, it is going to be close.
The fact that the two top dogs on the track, as well as current Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, will be competing over both distances is brilliant for the sport, even if it hampers the chance of a British gold medal. Asher-Smith will be desperate to prove she is number one.
History beckons for the Londoner. The last female sprinter to step onto the podium at an Olympic Games wearing British colours was Dorothy Hyman, who won silver in the 100m in 1960. It is twenty years since Darren Campbell won silver in Sydney over 200m, while it has been an even longer wait for a female medalist over that distance. On home soil, in 1948, Audrey Williamson finished second to Dutch athlete Fanny Blanker-Koen to take silver.
Britain has never had an Olympic gold medalist over the 200m, male or female. Dina Asher-Smith could change all that, but first she will have to beat the best.