King’s is well accustomed to sporting success. Dame Katherine Grainger, Great Britain’s most decorated female Olympian, winning one gold and four silver Olympic medals and six world championships over the course of her illustrious career, completed her PhD in law at King’s in 2012. Fellow rower and alumnus, Paul Bennett MBE, is another Olympic gold medallist, graduating with a first-class MSc in mathematics in the same year as Grainger.
Whether it sports or academia, the Strand is home to the world’s best and brightest. It should come as no surprise, then, to hear that KCL alumni featured strongly at this year’s seventeenth IAAF World Championships held in Doha. Our very own Dina Asher-Smith made most of the headlines, for all the right reasons.
Asher-Smith can now say with authority that she is not only the fastest female Briton ever, but a world champion, claiming gold in the women’s 200m. The 23-year old sprinter was in fine fettle as she dominated the final, setting a personal best in the process and becoming the first British female sprinter since Kathy Cook to win an individual medal in the world championships. On top of her gold medal, Asher-Smith added two silvers to her haul, in the women’s 100m and 4 x 200m relay respectively.
But it doesn’t stop there. Asher-Smith, born and raised in Orpington, hopes to build on this success at the upcoming 2020 Olympic Games, having previously managed to secure a bronze medal in 2016. Yet Asher-Smith’s talents lie beyond that of the running track, as evidenced by her academic success whilst studying here at KCL where she graduated in 2017 with a first in History. Juggling a sporting career with a degree is a challenge, yet our many performance athletes, like Dina, flourish.
Fellow KCL alumna, Laviai Nielson, also ran in Doha where she competed in the women’s 400m and 4 x 400m relay. Having established herself as Team GB’s standout 400m runner at the national championships earlier this summer, Nielson performed admirably, only narrowly missing out on a bronze medal as GB finished fourth in the women’s 4 x 400m relay. Having grown up in Leytonstone, Nielson studied Geography at KCL, graduating in 2018.
Last but not least, KCL was further represented by current psychology student Imani-Lara Lansiquot, who accompanied Asher-Smith in competing for the women’s 100m, where she managed to reach the semi-finals. Lansiquot also came home with a silver medal in the 4 x 100m relay, where she ran in the heats before being forced to withdraw from the final due to a thigh injury. Her 100 metres PB of 11.09 seconds ranks fourth on the UK all-time list.
Yet the success of our exceptional Alumnae transpired with wider questions in the backdrop. Held in Doha, Qatar from 27 September to 6 October, the athletics championships received heavy condemnation from athletes and fans alike. Despite IAAF Chief Lord Coe naming the competition “the best we’ve ever had”, underwhelming crowds and unforgiving heat marred what would have otherwise been a successful championships. Only 7,266 were present to witness Asher-Smith’s 200m triumph in a 50.000 seater stadium and the daytime temperatures of up to 42c forced the marathon to start at midnight (a competition which saw a record number of DNFs due to exhaustion), among other anomalies.
Despite the abundance of success for our KCL athletes, Team GB tallied their worst medal haul at a World Athletics Championships since 2005, coming sixth in the medal table below Ethiopia, China, Jamaica, Kenya and the United States.
None of this will matter to the KCL alumnae, however, who now head to Japan with their eyes cast firmly upon the ultimate prize – gold medals at the 2020 Olympics.
image credits to sky and mirror sport