Asher-Smith reaches Olympics as young GB stars shine

Dina Asher-Smith wins the UK 200m title
Dina Asher-Smith won European 100m gold earlier in June [Getty Images]

Dina Asher-Smith confirmed her place at the Paris 2024 Olympics as she beat Daryll Neita to the British 200m title at the UK Athletics Championships.

Asher-Smith, 28, ran a championship record 22.18 seconds to finish ahead of Neita, who had already confirmed her inclusion in Team GB by winning 100m gold on Saturday.

On a thrilling final day of action in Manchester, several exciting young athletes shone under ominously dark clouds to ensure they will represent Team GB for the first time in Paris.

Phoebe Gill, 17, claimed a stunning 800m victory ahead of Jemma Reekie in one minute 58.66 secs, with those two athletes joining Olympic and world silver medallist Keely Hodgkinson at the Games.

The 23-year-old Amber Anning won the women's 400m in impressive fashion from Laviai Nielsen, who joins twin sister Lina on the Olympic team, while another rising star Charlie Dobson dominated the men's event.

There was drama in the men's 800m final, won by 22-year-old world bronze medallist Ben Pattison, as world 1500m champion Josh Kerr suffered a fall as he attempted to pass Elliot Giles on the inside in the closing stages - but was unharmed.

Pattison, who claimed a surprise first global medal in Budapest, was followed across the line by Max Burgin, also 22 and now set for an Olympic debut.

Matthew Hudson-Smith stormed to the men's 200m title with a personal best 20.34secs as the world 400m silver medallist sharpened his speed before targeting glory in Paris.

Georgia Bell, 30, will make her first appearance at an Olympics after she stunned favourite Laura Muir in the women's 1500m, as will Neil Gourley and European 5,000m silver medallist George Mills after they occupied the top-two spots in men's final.

'Big changes' pay off for Asher-Smith in medal bid

Asher-Smith had qualified fastest for the final in 22.69secs, with Neita also winning her heat in 23.05secs - and the former world 200m champion raised her level again to take victory in a season's best time.

It meant the 28-year-old will join fellow sprint medal hope Neita in Paris as she targets her first global medal since winning world 200m gold five years ago.

Asher-Smith won her fifth European gold over 100m earlier in June to earn a first major international title since that stunning triumph in Doha, and her 10.96secs in the semi-finals in Rome remains the fastest time by a European athlete this year.

Following a disappointing World Championships in Budapest last summer, where she finished eighth in the 100m final and seventh in the 200m, Asher-Smith ended a 19-year partnership with long-time coach John Blackie and moved to train with Edrick Floreal – and that decision appears to be paying off as the Games approach.

"There has been a lot of big changes for me this year," said Asher-Smith. "Something new was definitely needed and I have an amazing coach and set-up over there.

"This is not my first rodeo and I am really happy with this performance. I didn't expect to run a season's best either, especially it's not the day for it with conditions."

It was also a successful weekend for Neita, who stormed to the British 100m title on Saturday night, taking a dominant victory in 11.24secs in miserable conditions.

The two-time relay Olympic medallist has prioritised individual honours this year and was "distraught" after missing out on European 200m gold by one hundredth of a second less than three weeks ago, but responded to that setback to take two medals in Manchester.

World heptathlon champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson finished ninth in the javelin on Saturday and lined up for the 200m a day later, running 23.20secs to qualify for the final which she then opted not to run.

Teenager Gill leads impressive emerging talent

Teenage sensation Gill could barely believe her achievement after she led from the front and impressively held off the challenge of Reekie in the last 200m and seal her Olympic debut.

Gill lined up as a serious contender after breaking the 45-year European Under-18 800m record in 1:57.86 just two weeks after her 17th birthday in May.

Aware a top-two finish would confirm her Team GB place, she approached the occasion with a maturity that belied her inexperience – the significance of her achievement hitting her emotionally shortly after she crossed the line.

"I am really emotional, I am trying not to cry," said Gill. "I am so happy, I never thought this would actually happen. This is crazy to me, it's like I'm dreaming. I can't describe it to be honest.

"The fact I am going [to Paris] and competing against those who I have been watching on TV for ages is crazy. Paris wasn't on my radar at all, the fact I am going now means I can go without having any expectations."

Second was enough for world indoor silver medallist Reekie to join Gill and Hodgkinson in the Olympic 800m.

Olympic and world silver medallist Hodgkinson will again aim for her first global title in Paris, this time without one of her main rivals for company after defending Olympic champion Athing Mu missed out on qualification following a fall at the US trials.

Hodgkinson, who took European gold despite battling illness in Rome, contested the 400m in Manchester as she aimed to sharpen up in the final month before Paris, and finished seventh in 52.22secs.

Another young talent claimed victory in that race too.

Anning, 23, has been in stellar form this year as she made rapid progress in the United States, breaking the 25-year British indoor 200m record in January in 22.60secs before running the third-fastest 400m by a British woman with 49.51secs in May.

She will head to Paris full of confidence after taking a commanding win ahead of Laviai Nielsen, who embraced sister Lina after crossing the line as they both confirmed their places on Team GB.

Lina Nielsen, who won an emotional bronze alongside Laviai as part of Britain's 4x400m team at the world indoors in March, finished ahead of Jessie Knight in 54.81secs in the women's 400m hurdles final as both athletes qualified for Paris.

In the men's 400m, Dobson was untouchable as he confirmed his place for Paris.

The 24-year-old, who has won world bronze and European gold as part of Great Britain's 4x400m quartet in recent years, clinched his first major individual medal with European silver this month and will join Hudson-Smith in pursuit of an Olympic medal.

Following his impressive win, Hudson-Smith, who missed out on world gold by 0.08secs last year, said: "I am in good shape, the shape to win and I just want to get that gold.

"I am not worried about the time, just the medal. I know I am among the best and I just want to show the world I can do it."

Pattison takes 800m title as Muir beaten

Pattison will have the chance to cause another shock when he travels to Paris, having powered clear of the competition on the home straight to come through unscathed in a high-quality 800m final.

Kerr was racing over the two-lap distance as he builds towards his latest duel with Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen, whom he beat to win his first global title in Budapest, but jogged across the line after an unfortunate clash with Giles.

Muir lined up for the women's final as strong favourite to regain the 1500m title she lost to Katie Snowden last year but it was Bell - who only returned to the sport following lockdown - who finished the strongest to confirm her spot.

Bell, who has a full-time job but is on sabbatical to pursue her Olympic dream, clocked 4:10.69 to beat Muir (4:11.59) and Revee Walcott-Nolan (4:11.70) in an event where five athletes met the qualifying standard.

Elsewhere, Morgan Lake confirmed her place at a second Olympics by taking the women's high jump title.

Lake, 27, claimed her 13th British title indoors and outdoors as the only athlete to clear 1.82m, before also making a second-time leap over 1.85m.

Lake's Olympic debut in Tokyo was ruined by an injury which forced her to withdraw from the final, while she fell just short of a world medal last summer with a fourth-placed finish.

Patrick Dever will also be in Paris after a second-placed finish in the men's 5,000m in 13:44.58, behind James West (13:43.62), having already secured the qualifying standard.

In the men's 400m hurdles final, Alastair Chalmers was disqualified for a false start but ran under protest and hauled himself over the line for first place in a personal best time of 48.53secs, which would have taken him under the Olympic qualifying standard.