Dina Asher-Smith’s world-beating exploits have made her a contender for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award but she believes the best part of the event is the spotlight it shines on the unsung heroes of sport.
The 24-year-old became the first British woman to win a major global sprint title when she secured gold over 200 metres at the World Athletics Championships in Doha in October.
She is one of six contenders on the shortlist for the BBC prize in Aberdeen on Sunday night along with fellow track and field star Katarina Johnson-Thompson, England cricketer Ben Stokes, Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton and Wales rugby captain Alun Wyn Jones.
Although she says it would be “pretty cool” to win, the award for unsung hero is one she will take a very keen interest in.
“I train with the coach (John Blackie) that I’ve had since I was eight years old so when I see people volunteering and doing amazing stuff for their community, selflessly, it’s something that really resonates with me because that’s how I met John,” she told the PA news agency.
“It’s vital to have those kind of people doing that work and giving up so much of their time and their energy to either giving people a safe space to have fun and meet friends, or if they’re coaching to an elite level, giving people the time and energy to fulfil their dreams.
“It’s something that sits really warmly with me. The awards shed light on things that might not be on the back pages of newspapers, but that deserve to be celebrated.”
Fifteen people from across the UK are nominated for the Unsung Hero award, with the winner to be revealed in Sunday night’s show on BBC One.
To give a flavour of the nominees, the north-west regional candidate is Peter Hill, who is the chair and founder of Place 2 Place FC, which uses five-a-side football as a casual environment in which to start conversations about mental health. Another is Mike Haines, who set up the City of Cambridge Disability Swimming Club after witnessing a disabled child being ignored in a swimming session.
Asher-Smith speaks fondly of her own coach Blackie, and of how critical he has been to her success.
“He’s like a second dad to me,” she said.
“I am completely biased obviously but I think he deserves all the plaudits he gets. He doesn’t want to make a fuss or chase the limelight.
“But he’s such a talented, intelligent and patient man and I know I wouldn’t be world champion, or the athlete or woman that I am today, without John’s influence and his wisdom. I’ve got loads of time for John.”