First Dina Asher-Smith made a compelling statement of intent on the track by qualifying fastest for Friday’s European 200m final. Then she issued an even more powerful cri de coeur off it by revealing that the calf cramps that ruined her chances of 100m gold on Tuesday were caused by her period.
On a night where Britain won three medals – with Jake Heyward taking silver in the 1500m, Jazmin Sawyers claiming a clutch long jump bronze and the redoubtable Eilish McColgan also making the podium in the 5,000m – Asher-Smith’s words on a subject that is often taboo left the deepest mark.
After she had dispelled any injury doubts by qualifying for Friday’s final in 22.53sec, Asher-Smith was asked about her cramps on Tuesday. “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.”
The 26-year-old urged sporting bodies to provide far more funding and research. “More people need to research it from a sports science perspective, because it’s huge,” said Asher-Smith. “People don’t always talk about it either.
“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.”
Jakob Ingebrigtsen reinforced his greatness by adding the European 1500m crown to his 5,000m title with a wire-to-wire victory. But as the Norwegian powered clear to win in 3min 32.76sec, Britain’s Heyward tracked him to take silver, just under two seconds back.
It was especially impressive given Heyward has recently had a fever. Yet he was not entirely content afterwards, admitting: “It’s nice to come away with something but unless it’s gold, I’m not happy.”
Another British medal followed in a thrilling women’s 5,000m final, as the German 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 after finishing third.
“I’ve come into this year with one outdoor medal and I’ve just added four,” she explained. “I can’t even describe what that means. At one point I thought gold was there, but they were just so strong.
“Everyone thought I was mad wanting to do the double or three, but I’ve got four medals and four medals more than I did at the start of the year and I’m just so proud. Of course I’d love to win a European title but it was always going to be a tough ask after the Commonwealth Games.”
The British success didn’t end there. The finale of a high-quality women’s long jump saw Sawyers leap to 6.80m on her final jump to knock Ukraine’s tearful Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk out of bronze. The Serbian Ivana Vuleta (7.07m) took gold just ahead of the home favourite Malaika Mihambo.
“All the way through I kept getting it wrong,” said Sawyers. “But I knew I had it in me. I was standing on the top of the runway thinking: ‘You cannot leave here without a medal.’
“The 6.80m comes up, I lose my mind. And then I think: ‘Oh god, this is what happened in Berlin four years ago, Maryna moved up into silver and knocked me into fourth. I’m stood there going :‘What’s she going to do?’ But I held on to it and I’m so happy.”
Elsewhere on another night of high-class action, Nafi Thiam and Gianmarco Tamberi added European gold to their Olympic titles in the heptathlon and high jump.
Meanwhile the British team will hope to hop back on the gold medal train tomorrow with Asher-Smith, the Commonwealth gold medallist Laura Muir in the 1500m, and Zharnel Hughes in the men’s 200m all strong favourites.