'No limits' for GB's Neita in Olympic medal hunt

British sprinter Daryll Neita
Watch coverage of the third Diamond League meet of the season in Doha on BBC Two and the BBC Sport website and app from 17:00 BST on Friday [Getty Images]

As far as season-opening races go, beating the reigning world 100m champion is not a bad place to start.

Such a statement performance is only amplified in an Olympic year but, with less than three months until Paris 2024, Daryll Neita remains focused on enjoying her journey.

That was evident at the Suzhou Diamond League, the 27-year-old beaming as she cruised to an impressive 200m victory in 22.62 seconds, with American Sha'Carri Richardson - also a world medallist over that distance - among those trailing behind.

She will aim to build further momentum when she competes over 100m at the next Diamond League meeting in Doha on Friday, live on BBC Two from 17:00 BST.

"It's nice when you shock yourself," the British sprinter tells BBC Sport.

"My coach has been working me so hard, so I went into the race expecting to win and wanting to win, but time-wise I had no idea what was going to happen. To cross the line feeling so good is probably why I showed that emotion.

"It was a good run against a strong line-up and it gives me a lot of confidence going into the summer. I'm in a great place."

Neita is succeeding in staying grounded in the present despite her grand ambitions.

Following a training block which she describes as an "insane winter operation" with coach Marco Airale in Italy, the London-born athlete is determined to maintain her upward trajectory and believes that can lead to a place on the Olympic podium.

Having won five global medals as an ever-present in the British women's 4x100m team - including bronze at both the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Games - she will seek to replicate that success in both the 100m and 200m in Paris.

"My goals are through the roof. I don’t put limits on myself at all," Neita says.

"100% I am aiming for individual medals this summer. I don’t see why anyone shouldn't believe they can; everyone should aim to be the best.

"It would mean the world to me. I have put in so much work to be in this position. It would be all of that hard work and dedication paying off.

"I just believe it’s possible. It would be the best feeling ever."

Described as a 'supercar' by coach Airale, with whom she has worked since her move to Italy two years ago, Neita secured the first individual international medals of her career in 2022 with European and Commonwealth 100m bronze.

It is only three years since she finished eighth in her first global final at the Tokyo Olympics, but she demonstrated her exciting progress by finishing within 0.24 seconds of the podium among a star-studded 200m line-up at last summer's World Championships.

"I'm just really proud of my journey and I'm enjoying it, that's probably the main thing," Neita says.

"I’m not someone who is too focused on the past or future, I like to be in the present. When you're in the present moment, good things happen.

"For me it's about staying on that high vibration, taking the positives from everything that happens, and seeing the glass as half-full all the time."

It is a journey which started when Neita, the second-fastest British woman in history, was scouted at a school sports day - an opportunity without which she believes she "wouldn’t be where I am now".

Keen to "give back", she recently launched an initiative close to her heart - the Daryll Neita Athletics Community - to provide the next generation with those invaluable opportunities, as she also aims to produce inspiring performances on the track.

There has been a focus on increasing power and strength over recent months to build the foundations for a potentially exhausting Olympic schedule; Neita would race six times over five consecutive days should she achieve her aim of making both individual finals, before the relays are contested.

Her rivals certainly caught a glimpse of that hard work in last month's curtain-raiser in China, which will only fuel her belief as she builds towards her shot at Olympic glory.

"This part of the season is all about going out there, learning from your races and building towards the summer because Paris is the main goal," says Neita.

"Every time you go out there you can learn something new. Everything leading up to Paris is a stepping stone - but you have to enjoy the process."