Schippers heading to London and relaxed for title defence

Dafne Schippers at the Amsterdam 2016 European Athletics Championships
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Dafne Schippers at the Amsterdam 2016 European Athletics Championships

One of the great hopes for European success at the IAAF World Championships London 2017, which start in London on Friday next week, is Dutch sprinter Dafne Schippers and the good news is that the two-time European Athlete of the Year could not be more relaxed about her prospects for her 200m title defence.

Schippers won the longer sprint two years ago in Beijing and has made it her priority not to be in the spotlight in the weeks and days leading up to the event after admitting she was caught up in the euphoria of her growing fame, and the resulting air of expectation, before last summer's Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

This year her approach is different and it is why she cannot wait to step out in London where she is also competing in the 100m.

"I have weeks with nothing on and therefore I am a lot more relaxed, which I really need," said Schippers. "The attention has waned but it has also been a question of self preservation for me to stay out of the spotlight."

Even if she retired today, at the age of 25, she would have done pretty well, that is for sure.

Such is her position now among the sport's leading sprinters, it is easy to forget that she first came to prominence as a multi-events exponent, winning the 2010 world U20 heptathlon title and then the European U20 heptathlon title the following year.

At the 2013 world championships in Moscow, Schippers then won bronze in the heptathlon just a few weeks after also winning the bronze medal in the long jump at the European U23 Championships in Tampere.

It all changed for her in 2014 when she stormed to national sprint records and memorably won the 100m and 200m double at that summer's European Athletics Championships in Zurich.

Twelve months on, she had a world championship to savour in Beijing.

First, she won the 100m silver as she broke the national record with 10.81 to go equal-fourth on the European all-time list and then she powered around the bend to smash the European 200m record for gold in 21.63, which was also a championship record.

Rio was not quite what she hoped for despite the fact that many of her contemporaries would have been well pleased, finishing fifth in the 100m before winning a 200m silver medal.

But now London sees her ready to go prospecting for gold again.

Schippers has not raced much this summer, with a 100m best of 10.95 going back to April when she was warm weather training in the USA, but her quickest 200m time of 22.10 came in the IAAF Diamond League in Lausanne at the start of this month, a signal that she is heading towards her peak when it matters most.

"This is my career," added Schippers. "I want so badly to do well."

Jamaica's Elaine Thompson, the Olympic 100m and 200m champion, leads the 2017 world 100m lists with 10.71 and beat Schippers into second place in London in the shorter sprint this month. It could be between the two again at the world championships back in the Olympic Stadium but it is the 200m where the Dutch star is expected to come into her own once more

In addition to being a confirmed championship performer, Schippers combines such strength in her legs with her raw early speed. Throw in her being relaxed and it could be quite a formula for success.