When the truth was finally told, tears flowed from Dina Asher-Smith.
The ‘face’ of the British Olympic team had just watched a lifelong dream turn to dust from an injury she had hidden and secretly treated for five weeks.
She had tried to convince herself that it would be different, that a month after tearing her hamstrings, she could take on the world.
She refused to throw the towel away despite having just gotten off the crutches and cautiously stepping back into the spikes.
She clung to the champion mentality that if she only made it to the start line in one piece, the magic could still happen.
On an uncomfortably hot night in Tokyo, her best intentions only added to the heartache and pain.
She did not miss to become Olympic champion, she did not even manage to reach the final.
Her semi-final confirmed what the heat on Friday had suggested: that she was lame and a shadow of herself.
Daily Mirror / Andy Stenning)
It was then, and only then, that she was forthright and revealed the nightmarish ordeal she had been through since last month’s ordeals.
“It has been a crazy, intense and heartbreaking time,” admitted Britain’s fastest woman, who will now not compete in the 200m. “I was in the shape of my life. Without a doubt.
“I’m not trying to sound arrogant, but this is where I was. I stumbled my hamstring at 60 meters in the UK Championship final, stopped and ran 10.97 anyway. “
Daily Mirror / Andy Stenning)
It was June 26, the day Asher-Smith says he was told it was a breakup. “That my hamstrings and tendons were no longer attached,” she added. “That I would need surgery.
“That it would take three or four months before I walk again, then a year before I sprint.
“I was in tears, I had a written statement explaining why I was not going to be selected.”
Before sending it, she decided to call Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt, the German doctor recognized as the best in the business. In case.
“I wanted to have an opinion on the type of operation I should have,” she said. “If there were any hamstrings left or if I had to have a plastic or metal prop.”
Müller-Wohlfahrt replied that even if he was indeed torn he could take him to Tokyo.
Asher-Smith broke down in tears, deleted his email, begged the coaches to keep his seat and took a flight to Munich.
“I was on crutches, without crutches, I was learning to fully extend it again,” she said. “Walk, exercise, jog, run. The whole time is counting down. “
She returned to the UK, flew to Tokyo on Tuesday last week and the next day she put on spikes for the first time.
Seen this way, she did remarkably well to run an 11.05-second semi-final. But being close and yet so far only added to her sense of what could have been.
That left her on the outside, watching her great friend Daryll Neita in a final won by defending champion Elaine Thompson Herah with an Olympic record of 10.61 seconds.
“The easiest thing would have been to turn around and say I’m not getting on the plane,” Asher-Smith sighed. “It would have saved my pride, it would have saved everything.
“But at the end of the day, I’m an incredibly talented sprinter and I know what kind of athlete I am.
“I had dreamed of it for so long that unless I couldn’t stand or do anything on the leg, it wasn’t an option for me to retire.
“It’s my life.”