‘You can’t control people’s voices about fighting racism’: Team GB star Dina Asher-Smith defends athletes’ rights to protest at Olympics without facing sanctions in Tokyo
- Dina Asher-Smith is Team GB’s banner for the Tokyo Olympics
- The British sprinter has a chance to win gold in the 100 and 200 meters in Japan
- The 25-year-old defended the rights of athletes to protest in Japan this summer
- The IOC says stars can protest before or after a match, but not on stage
- Asher-Smith has described protesting as a ‘fundamental human right’
- Read the latest Olympic news in Tokyo, including schedule, medal table and results here
As she enters the fortnight that could define her career, Dina Asher-Smith says she’s ready to “let go.” It’s not just the sprinters of the world who have been notified.
For while Britain’s leading athlete on Thursday struck an ominous self-assured tone ahead of her three-pronged medal hunt here, she has also held the International Olympic Committee accountable on the subject of racial equality protests.
The IOC has struggled its way through that important issue, with the belated concession this month that athletes can “express their opinions” before and after the competition, but not on the podium.
Dina Asher-Smith defended athletes’ rights to protest racism at Tokyo Games
The IOC – led by Thomas Bach (above) – says athletes can ‘express their opinions’ before and after the competition, but not on stage
It remains to be seen if anyone will test the limits of those rules by taking a knee at a medal ceremony, but Asher-Smith has made a thumping contribution to the wider debate.
“I see protesting and expressing yourself as a fundamental human right,” she said. “If you were to punish someone for standing up to racial inequality, how on earth would that go, how on earth are you going to enforce it? Would you revoke someone’s medal for saying racism is wrong?
“How would you check that, especially when people think so strongly about it now? How would that go optically? I see it as totally impracticable.’
Asher-Smith did not clarify whether she would take a knee in the event that she wins a medal over her 100m, 200m and relay campaigns. But the 200m world champion was determined not to be silenced.
Asher-Smith described protesting racism as a ‘fundamental human right’
“I didn’t know that,” she responded when she learned that a stage protest ban will remain in place.
“If it’s something that’s so close to your heart – especially for me that subject would be racism, as a black woman you think of racism – I just think you can’t control people’s voices on that.
Some of the most iconic moments of the Olympics were Tommie Smith’s black power salute way back (in 1968). That’s something that people remember the Olympics about, something that they’re very proud to see at the Olympics. So if I think they’ll suddenly stand up and say ‘absolutely not’, I think they’re shooting themselves in the foot.’
The question of whether the 25-year-old can get on a podium here and become Britain’s first female sprinter to win an Olympic medal since Dorothy Hyman won 100m silver and 200m bronze in Rome in 1960 is one of the most controversial. fascinating subplots for Team GB.
Team GB’s Asher-Smith (right) is one of the favorites for the 100m and 200m . this summer
Asher-Smith’s 2019 200m and 100m silver world titles are testament to her ability to navigate the rounds of a championship, and it’s notable that in 2021 she has 12 wins from 12 races, but it’s unbelievable. deny that the clock favors many of its rivals.
She is ninth in the 100m standings this year with a season best of 10.91 seconds – far behind Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s 10.63 world leader – and is in an identical position with her score of 22.06 in the 200 meters, albeit on the back of just two races. Asher-Smith isn’t worried.
She said: ‘Everyone has their predictions written on paper, but we don’t run on paper, we run on the track. People always run fast – that’s the sport. It’s the championships that really matter.’
2019 World Championship winner Asher-Smith (third from left) says she’s not nervous before Tokyo
She added: “At Heathrow a lot of BA people said, ‘Are you nervous?’ I was like, “No, what’s there to be nervous about?”
“This is on a different scale, but I’m in line for a race and I’ve been doing that since I was eight years old and I’m very, very good at it. I love a show, I love a stage, I love putting together a great performance when the lights are really on.
“That’s just part of me. My coach (John Blackie) always tells me to hold back my excitement until the championships and then let it go. You will see more energy from me now.’