Tokyo 2020 - Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith set for biggest test since the World Championships at Gateshead Diamond League
The 200m world champion lines up in a stacked 100m in Gateshead, her first major race since winning silver over the same distance at the Doha World Championships in 2019. Asher-Smith was limited to minor races during a coronavirus hit 2020 and with two months to go until the Olympics, the race in England’s north-east will give an indicator of where the world’s top sprinters are at.
Truly global athletics meets have been on hold for over a year - which is why fans are so excited about the line-up which has been brought together in Gateshead this weekend.
At the Muller Grand Prix, Dina Asher-Smith will have an opportunity to lay down a marker on some of her biggest rivals for Olympic gold when she takes on the likes of Rio 2016 champion Elaine Thompson-Herah, the USA's Sha’Carri Richardson - and legend Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
One of the most thrilling elements is that we have no idea what sort of form they are all in. It is like top level sprinting has been left in suspended animation for a year and a half.
The pandemic may have done wonders for the likes of Asher-Smith in particular. Now 25, she has had time to hone her skills further after becoming 200m world champion and a 100m silver medallist at the Doha World Championships in 2019. Since then, she has been limited to minor races during a coronavirus-hit 2020.
There will be a lot of attention on how she performs in a stacked field, having started the season well with a convincing 200m win in 22.56 in Italy - some way short of her personal best of 21.88 - but we are early on in the season.
But what might the gap have done to sprint legend - but veteran - Fraser-Pryce, who beat Asher-Smith to gold over the 100m in Doha? The Jamaican is now 34 but she has consistently defied the odds, winning several major events since having her son Zyon in 2017.
Richardson and Thompson-Herah look the ones to beat in Gateshead, though. The former has the fastest time in the world this year with 10.72, while the latter has already clocked a season's best 10.78 over the 100m in Florida - both times which better Asher-Smith’s PB set in Doha.
This will be a big test then for the athlete who is becoming Team GB’s poster girl for Tokyo 2020, but her team-mate Zharnel Hughes has told Eurosport she can handle it.
“Dina’s a really great athlete,” he said.
“I’ve known her to be a very hard working person. She’s very committed and she’s the type of person who’ll continue to push right through.
I don’t think pressure really bothers her that much. If it does, she hides it pretty well! But I definitely think that she can do well at the Olympics.
“I wish her all the very best. She did really well in Doha, two golds there, and the way she performed I definitely think she can be amongst the medals in Tokyo”.
Conditions will be far from what any of the athletes will hope for as the UK enters ‘summer’ - temperatures are forecast for just 7 or 8°C - far away from the hot and humid conditions expected in Tokyo and far away too from what would have been expected at this time of year - even in Gateshead.
The world of athletics will have its eyes on the race though, and with a stunning line-up which also includes Jakob Ingebrigtsen and British hopefuls Laura Muir and Adam Gemili getting a run out, we will finally get to see what shape some of track and field’s biggest stars are in ahead of their blue ribband events in Tokyo.