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Interview: Great British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith

Sports Mole speaks with Great British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith following a year in which she has broken numerous records and earned many plaudits.

When she retires, which shouldn't be for a long time yet, 2015 is likely to be looked back on as the year that Dina Asher-Smith announced herself to the world of athletics.

The exuberant 19-year-old became the first British woman to ever break 11 seconds over 100m and then at August's World Athletics Championships in Beijing, she finished fifth in the 200m final and in doing so broke Kathy Cook's 31-year British record by clocking a time of 22.07 seconds.

It means that when she was nominated for the Sunday Times and Sky Sports Young Sportswoman of the Year award, the news came as little surprise.

Here, Sports Mole caught up with the sprinting sensation to discuss the last 12 months, as well as the pressure that now lies ahead for Rio 2016.

Dina Asher-Smith celebrates after taking silver in the women's 60m at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in March 2015© Getty Images

The general feeling among journalists, fans and the pundits is that 2015 has been a breakthrough year for you. Is that how you see it?

"It's hard to see it as a breakthrough year because I've been training and working hard over the last four years. Nothing has really changed for me. In terms of my performances maybe you could call it a breakthrough year, so I do understand why people say it."

You've achieved so many things this year, but does one in particular stand out above the rest?

"Going sub-11 inside the Olympic Stadium was really, really special. It was something I had wanted to do for such a long time and to do it there, in such an iconic venue for British athletes, is absolutely amazing."

All athletes head to major events looking to win a medal, but at the Worlds in Beijing, did you exceed your own expectations by finishing fifth in the final?

"Kind of, yeah. In terms of the times that I run, 100%. I did not expect to be running those times this year, so to be able to run 22.07 was amazing. But, it was my aim to get to the final, so I sort of achieved my goals. I always thought that a medal might be a bit of a stretch. I was happy with fifth place, but in the times that I did it in, I certainly exceeded my own expectations."

At the same time, did the fact that the top three all ran sub-22 show that there is still plenty of work to be done?

"I was in the race and there was such a huge gap between first and where I was. It has given me a visual target. I've improved a lot this year, but if I want to get medals and be one of the best in the world, I've still obviously got a lot of work to do."

Dina Asher-Smith crosses the line in the 200m at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing on August 28, 2015© Getty Images

There are those that have suggested you'll soon be sharing the limelight of British women's athletics will Jessica Ennis-Hill. Is that something you buy into?

"Not really, no. Jess is an icon full stop. She's amazing on and off the track, especially after she came back from having a baby. She got abs so quickly! Now she's won the world title as well. She's an Olympic champion and a double world champion. We've all got a long way to go before we get anywhere near what she's achieved."

As well as the comparisons with Ennis-Hill, there is a lot more media attention on you now. You've also been nominated for numerous awards and have broken many records. The danger is that you could get carried away, so how do you remain grounded?

"It's a lot to do with my friends and family. In that sense, I might be running faster, but not much has changed for me. I've still got uni work to do and I've got exactly the same friends now that I had since I started secondary school. Socially for me, nothing has changed. The media side of things might have changed a little bit, but doing the odd interview every now and then is fine."

With success comes a different level of expectancy and pressure. How are you going to ensure that it doesn't overawe you?

"It comes with the territory, especially with it being an Olympic year. Even if I hadn't had a decent 2015, expectations would still have risen because it's a big event that comes round every four years. How do I deal with it? It's all about what's in my head. I always put a little bit of pressure on myself.

"If you get lazy, you don't feel motivated. I always try and perform for my country, but also to make myself and my coach proud. When I'm in the race, what is in my head is pretty basic. I know what I've got to do. When it comes down to races, I shouldn't feel the pressure so much."

Speaking to you in mixed zones at events this year, you always come across as an optimistic and exuberant person with a constant smile on your face. Does that outlook help you deal with the pressure as well?

"I know athletics can sometimes not be fun if you're struggling for form or with an injury, but you've got to try to have fun. I'm grateful that I was healthy and able to run so many good times in 2015. In the future I might not be in this place again, so you always have to smile and be grateful. Even if the race doesn't go well, I just look at the fact that I came out of it healthy. In the grand scheme of things, I'm really, really lucky to be doing something that I enjoy so much."

Dina Asher-Smith pictured at the Anniversary Games on July 25, 2015© Getty Images

Of course everyone is now looking ahead to the Olympics in Rio de Janerio. You might have another four or five ahead of you, but how exciting is the prospect of competing in your first Games?

"It's majorly exciting, but I'm trying not to get too caught up in it. There is so much that could happen between now and then and also so much needed to qualify. I really do want to be an Olympian, but there is a lot of work to be done."

You were kit carrier on 'Super Saturday' at London 2012 when Ennis-Hill, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah all their won gold medals. How inspiring of a night was that?

"It was so inspiring. What made it all the more inspiring is that all three gold medal winners, they won again in Beijing [in 2015]. That made it more special because no matter what has gone on since London, they are still able to perform on the big stage three years later. That's really important.

"Being at 'Super Saturday' was great, so was the atmosphere. It really did confirm for me that I wanted to be an athlete. Being able to replicate the performance a few years later shows their persistence and hard work, which is really admirable."

You only competed in the 200m in Beijing, but is there a desire to double up with the 100m in Rio?

"It depends on so many things, like what other people in the team are doing and how my body is at the time that the qualification comes around. I'd love to double up, maybe not in Rio, but definitely in the future. I look up to the likes of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Allyson Felix, who have done that at Olympics. If I don't get to do it in Rio, I'm not going to be too disappointed because I know it will be the best decision for me at that moment."

How tough - both mentally and physically - is it to compete in the two?

"It's hard to make a judgement on it because I've never doubled up on the senior stage. I did it in domestic championships and it's very mentally tiring, but I don't think it's the same as doubling up somewhere like the World Champs or the Olympics because there you have hopefully the heats, semi-finals and final. I can imagine that's very tiring all round."

Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain competes in the Women's 200 metres semi-final during day six of the 15th IAAF World Athletics Championships Beijing 2015 at Beijing National Stadium on August 27, 2015© Getty Images

While preparing for the Olympics, you'll also be finishing off your history degree at King's College in London. How do the two dovetail? Is it a case of one gives you a release from the other?

"If I'm struggling with an essay where I can't think of the words, I look at the clock and realise I have to go to training. I work hard, have a laugh and do the session. Then I come home and I'm refreshed, which means that I can look at the essay with a new light. I often work better at night after a training session because my brain is more awake. The two complement each other, but it's definitely a tough schedule at the same time."

How do you rate the state of British sprinting, both for men and women? It seems to be a competitive environment right now.

"We've really popped up on the map recently. That's not to say we weren't anywhere before because we won Olympic gold in the relay in 2004 and had great success over the 400m. But, at the same time, we've now got a younger crop. For the last couple of years we've always had someone run sub-10 seconds in the boys and this year there's been two that have done it. It's great. We're all happy, we're all smiling and hopefully it bodes well for the years to come."

Why has there been such an enhancement of late?

"It wasn't necessarily a barren spell, but it's tough to say. When you have one person do really well, it makes everyone else raise their game. People want to be in a competitive environment. There have also been improvements in coaching, physio and nutrition. All the medical and psychologist support that we are given, it helps us become stronger and more resilient athletes. I don't use a psychologist, but I know it helps other athletes. The improvements are due to a combination of all of that."

What does it mean to have been included on the shortlist for the Young Sportswoman of the Year award?

"It's put a smile on my face. I feel really humbled to have been nominated. When you're competing, you're always so concentrated on the races in hand, you almost lose sight of how proud people are of you. So, it's nice at the end of the year to look back and see your name alongside so many great people. It means a lot because it shows that people have recognised what you've done and that they have faith in you."

Dina Asher-Smith is shortlisted for the 2015 Sunday Times and Sky Sports Sportswomen of the Year Awards in association with Vitality. Watch on Sky Sports 1 and Sky 1 on November 6.

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