100 metre magic at the Letzigrund Stadium

100m thrillers at the Letzigrund Stadium
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Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands crosses the 100m finish to take European gold just ahead of France's Myriam Soumaré in Zurich on Wednesday.

Two new European champions announced themselves here tonight over the 100 metres as Great Britain’s James Dasaolu and Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands won their first big track titles.

Dasaolu, 26, made his mark as a major talent last year in winning the European Indoor silver medal over 60m and ran 9.91 for the 100m, ranking him joint third on the European all-time list with Churandy Martina, just behind Linford Christie 9.87 and Francis Obikwelu 9.86.

After the frustration of missing the World Indoors and Commonwealth Games this season as a result of an untimely muscle tear in his thigh, Dasaolu seized his opportunity to end the year on a high as he dominated the race from the start.

He left defending champion, Christophe Lemaitre of France, bashing his head in frustration after having to settle for silver in 10.13 behind the Briton’s 10.06.

“It's great to be the European champion,” said Dasaolu, whose ambitions had been assisted by the late withdrawal from the semifinals of France’s Jimmy Vicaut, fastest qualifier in 10.06, with a muscle strain.

“I'm still trying to take it all in,” he added. “I didn't have a great start but I battled through so I'm happy. Track and field always has lots of ups and downs - I've had my hamstring injury but fast forward to Zurich in August and I'm the European champion.

“It's a lovely thing to get my first senior outdoor gold medal; I'm just going to enjoy it. I wasn't sure if I was going to be here at the beginning of the year. The weather wasn't the best and we were delayed by half an hour but I zoned out and focused on the job in hand.

“My coach told me to focus on the drive phase and just to execute the best I can and that's what I did.”

 Schippers began the season as a heptathlete, and will almost certainly start next season as a heptathlete - but the 22-year-old Dutch athlete is finishing this year as a sprinter, and after winning the European title in 11.12 despite a headwind of 1.7mps, she is halfway to emulating the 100 and 200m double of her illustrious fellow countrywoman Fanny Blankers-Koen at the European Championships of 1950.

Before the Championships began, Schippers sat alongside two of her other 100m sprint rivals, defending champion Ivet Lalova and Germany’s 2010 champion Verena Sailer and announced: “I will go with these girls for a medal. We will see which colour medal it is.”

Now she knows – it’s gold. And tomorrow morning she plans to be back on the same track to start the second part of her European adventure.

“Yes, I will be on the line tomorrow morning,” she said with a grin. “That is the final thing for me. I am feeling good.”

Reflecting on her race, she added: “The first 20 metres were not that good and the last 20 were not very relaxing so I can see some space for improvement.

“But it is great to become the European champion and it is a big honour, although it will take some time for me to realise it.

“The gold medal is very important to my country. You have to take that moment – you cannot choose the weather, or the wind, or the track. I hope that my fans and my country are also very happy just like me.

“Next season I will be back in the heptathlon, starting at Gotzis just like this season.”

But before that, history beckons her in the longer sprint…