Work hard, be patient, believe in you, don’t fear failure, Dina tells students

PUBLISHED: 13:00 08 December 2017

Olympic bronze medalist Dina Asher-Smith with the Coopers Coborn girls' athletics squad that won a national title in 2017

Olympic bronze medalist Dina Asher-Smith with the Coopers Coborn girls' athletics squad that won a national title in 2017


Dina Asher-Smith, Britain’s fastest woman, had a clear message for pupils at Coopers Coborn during their annual sports awards evening.

Phoebe Menear was named sports personality of the year at Coopers Coborn School Phoebe Menear was named sports personality of the year at Coopers Coborn School

Asher-Smith holds the national records for 100 and 200 metres, is European champion over the longer sprint distance and an Olympic bronze and World silver medalist in 4x100m relay.

And the 22-year-old had some good advice when addressing a large crowd last Friday.

“My advice is to work hard, you have to if you want to be the best or good at anything, whether it’s art, academics or sport. Anything worth having doesn’t come easy.

“You also have to be patient. I’ve had times when I’ve been working so hard and results haven’t come and I’ve got frustrated. It’s a process.

Bethan Isherwood with the Tom Wilson Memorial award at Coopers Bethan Isherwood with the Tom Wilson Memorial award at Coopers

“You have to believe in yourself. I came fourth in the World Championships 200m by seven hundredths of a second and was frustrated by that, but I’d broken my foot in February.

“I was getting ready for my home championships in London, training on the back of Rio and getting a medal with the relay girls. I was doing my plyometrics and jumped and whacked my foot and completely broke it.

“It was painful and heartbreaking as the expected recovery time was one year and the World Championships were in six months. Doctors were saying this isn’t good, you’re going to miss them.

“I couldn’t let that happen. Since I decided to be serious about athletics, I wanted to be the best in the world. It was a once in a lifetime chance to compete in my home town. Everyone laughed at me, but I just kept trying anyway and as the season progressed I thought ‘I can make the World Championships’. If I didn’t believe in myself in that moment, that wouldn’t have been able to happen to me.

“And the last thing is don’t fear failure. It’s not a bad thing, it’s something we all learn from and makes you stronger. It’s how you deal with failure.”

There was little talk of failure on the night as Coopers celebrated another excellent year of sporting success.

The under-19 gymnastics and junior athletics girls shared the sporting excellence award for their success at national finals, while golfer Harriet Lynch took the Joy Cochrane outstanding achievement award.

England under-15 footballer Ruby Mace claimed the potential for success award, while swimmer Lewis Binning received the Karen Pack Olympic potential prize.

Hannah Panchal was named junior sports personality, while Phoebe Menear took the sports personality of the year award.

Asher-Smith was a great guest, talking of how she used to try lots of things as a youngster, from dancing, diving, swimming, to Brownies and playing trumpet.

What she didn’t like, though, was running, until a primary school friend bribed her to try.

“I was thinking ‘no, I don’t want to go running’, and it was a cross-country club and I didn’t want to go out in that mud, get out of breath, I was very happy to be dancing!” she said.

“But Charlotte said ‘if you go, I’ll buy you an ice lolly after school’, so I said ok then!”

That led to a place in the school team and a trip to the borough championships, which proved a baptism of fire, despite the cold.

“The course was so far and I was definitely not ready. Nobody told me we were going to have to run the whole park!” she said.

“I’d never done competitive sport before and was thinking ‘why am I here?’ and the klaxon went and I remember getting halfway round and I tasted blood in my mouth. I thought I was dying, I told the marshall I think something is wrong. They said keep going, it’s fine.

“I had this little bright orange bobble hat and I saw my mum waving and crossed the line and they gave me this little card and I didn’t understand it. I was tired and sat on the floor and my mum was asking me ‘where did you come?’ and I picked up the card and it said fifth.

“Even though I was struggling and was so focused on it hurting, I just wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible and somehow I came fifth.”

Asher-Smith joined Blackheath & Bromley AC, who discovered her talent for shorter, explosive running, and went on to win gold at the London Youth Games.

“It snowballed from there. I was selected for South East England, won the UK School Games, until I represented England and GB Juniors when I was 15, that was my first trip away from home.

I was just an active kid. Then somehow at 20, I was an Olympian, it still doesn’t make sense to me.”

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