Schippers keeps the golden times rolling

Schippers keeps the golden times rolling
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Dutch star Dafne Schippers won 200m gold in a national record time of 21.63, the third quickest time in history at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing.

When the European Female Athlete of the Year is named in Lausanne on Saturday, will Dafne Schippers keep hold of her crown?

The winner in 2014 has had another amazing 12 months and is on the shortlist with Poland’s hammer thrower Anita Wlodarczyk and British heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill.

Today we look at Schippers’ great year ahead of our Golden Tracks awards night when we honour the European male and female Athletes of the Year and Rising Stars.

The awards will be presented at a televised gala evening and will be streamed live at www.european-athletics.org starting at 20:30 local time.

The progression of Dafne Schippers from heptathlete to becoming one of the sport’s greatest sprinters has been an extraordinary story over the past 15 months.

But should it be any surprise?

To those present in Tampere 2013, at the 9th European Athletics U23 Championships, it would seem a natural progression.

The southern Finnish city was the setting for a major landmark moment in the career of Dutchwoman Schippers, even though few could have imagined her name would be spoken of alongside her country’s finest ever athlete, Fanny Blankers-Koen.

But after being quickest in the heats with 11.20, in the semi-finals with 11.30, she then won the final in 11.13 for her first major 100m title.

"It was good," she said after that win. "I am happy."

Now she is almost lost for words after the success she has achieved.

Schippers is the defending European Female Athlete of the Year after winning the award in Baku 12 months ago after her 100m-200m double triumph at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich.

She is on the shortlist following another spectacular year.

It began in Prague in March when she won 60m gold at the European Athletics Indoor Championships, taking the title in a personal best 7.05.

Yet even then, just as she did when she spoke on the stage in Baku, the lure of the multi-events were in her thoughts.

"I hope to stay in Götzis for the heptathlon and then after that we will make a choice," she said in the moments after winning that 60m title about her plans for the outdoor season.

It was not long before a decision was made. Schippers would concentrate on sprinting – and what a summer it would be.

 

At the IAAF World Championships in Beijing in August, she won 200m gold in 21.63, a championship and national record and the third quickest time in history, just four days after taking silver in the 100m (10.81), the fastest by a European in 2015 and another national record.

Not surprisingly she said: "Give me some time to think about what is happening to me.  I cannot believe it. What a championship it has been for me."

Let’s not forget, before July 2014, those 15 months ago, everything was pointing towards her challenging for medals in the heptathlon before two blistering runs in the IAAF Diamond League in Glasgow, when she broke two national records in just over two hours, changed her perspective about which direction her track and field life would take.

Beijing was always expected to be the next step in her development - but as a heptathlete after she had won bronze at the last World Championships in Moscow 2013.

Her arrival in the fast lanes of the 100m and 200m has been phenomenal.

Not since Blankers-Koen, the winner of four Olympic golds in London 1948, has the Netherlands had a woman sprinter of such ability.

She has revealed how moving from one event to the other in the heptathlon has allowed her to stay relaxed between rounds in the sprints, a key part of her progression.

How proud she is to be talked of in the same breath as Blankers-Koen. "It is good for the country," she said. "It is good for Europe."

And for those in Amsterdam, European Athletics Championships could not be staged at a better moment, with the excitement of having such a superstar running for the host nation.