Sport

Asher-Smith powers into 200m final and says calf cramps were caused by period

First Dina Asher-Smith made a compelling statement of intent on the track by qualifying fastest for the European Championships 200m final. Then she issued an even more powerful cri de coeur off it, by revealing that the cramps in her calves that ruined her hopes of 100m gold were caused by her period.

On a night when Britain won three medals – with Jake Heyward taking 1500m silver, Jazmin Sawyers claiming long jump bronze, and the redoubtable Eilish McColgan coming third in the 5,000m – Asher-Smith’s words on a subject that is often taboo left the deepest mark.

After she had qualified for Friday’s final in 22.53sec, dispelling any doubts that she had any lingering problems in her calves after the 100m, Asher-Smith was asked whether she had got to the bottom of her cramps. “It was just ‘girl stuff’,” she replied. “It’s just frustrating. It’s one of those things. It’s a shame because I’m in really good shape and I was really looking to come and run fast. But sometimes that’s just not the way that everything’s planned out.”

The 26-year-old then urged sporting bodies to provide far more funding and research to help women tackle the issue. “More people need to research it from a sports science perspective because it’s huge,” added Asher-Smith, who will meet Mujinga Kambundji and her fellow Briton Jodie Williams in the final. “People don’t always talk about it, either, because sometimes you see girls that have been so consistent and there’s a random dip and behind the scenes they’ve been really struggling.

“Everybody else will go: ‘What’s that? That’s random.’ So we could just do with more funding. I feel if it was a men’s issue there would be a million different ways to combat things.”

On the track, Jakob Ingebrigtsen reinforced his greatness by adding the European 1500m crown to his 5,000m title from earlier in the week with a wire-to-wire victory. But as the Norwegian powered clear to win the race in 3min 32.76sec, Britain’s Heyward produced a highly creditable run to take silver, just under two seconds back.

Jake Heyward celebrates taking silver in the 1500m.
Jake Heyward celebrates taking silver in the 1500m. Photograph: Martin Meissner/AP

Heyward’s performance was made all the more impressive given he had been unwell this week, but he was not entirely content. “It’s nice to come away with something but unless it’s gold, I’m not happy,” he said.

Another British medal followed in a thrilling women’s 5,000m final, where Konstanze Klosterhalfen delighted the Munich crowd by clawing back a 20m deficit to Yasemin Can to take gold in 14min 50.47sec. But somehow McColgan was able to drag her weary body around for a fourth major championship medal of the summer.

The British success did not end there as Sawyers soared to 6.80m on her final jump to deprive Ukraine’s Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk of bronze. The Serb Ivana Vuleta took gold with a leap of 7.07, just ahead of the home favourite Malaika Mihambo.

There looks to be a high chance of three British gold medals on Friday, with Keely Hodgkinson qualifying fastest for the women’s 800m semi-finals in the morning before the final in the evening, while Zharnel Hughes was also by far the quickest in the men’s 200m semi-finals.

Hodgkinson, who has won Olympic, world and Commonwealth silver medals in the past year and is an overwhelming favourite here, led from tape to gun to win her heat in 2min 03.71sec. Afterwards the brilliant 20-year-old made it clear her target was his first outdoor gold medal. “It’s been a very long season and my body’s feeling it,” she said. “I’ve been just trying to sleep, to be honest. Sleep, sleep, sleep. But I’m not glad I’ve got the silvers – and I’m ready to come here and crack that gold.”

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Jake Wightman also remains on course to complete a hat-trick of major medals this summer after cruising through his 800m heat in 1min 45.93sec to qualify fastest for Friday’s semi-finals.

“I haven’t run an 800 since May so I was a bit nervous about whether I’d done enough work for it,” Wightman said. “But I felt OK, it woke me up for this time in the morning. I just wanted to make sure I was in contention with 200m to go, and then if I needed to push on a bit to be safe then that’s what I needed to do.”

Wightman will be joined in the semi-finals by two other Britons, Daniel Rowden and Ben Pattison, while in the women’s event Jemma Reekie and Alex Bell are safely through alongside Hodgkinson.

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