To break one long-standing national record in a non-specialist event takes some doing. To break two, in just over two hours – now that’s quite a feat.
Yet perhaps the most remarkable thing about Dafne Schippers’ double Dutch-landmark sprinting at the Glasgow Diamond League last month, is that she didn’t think it was that remarkable at all.
“The start wasn’t very good,” shrugged Schippers immediately after clocking 11.03 in the 100m, a time which smashed Nelli Cooman’s Dutch record of 11.08 from the 1986 European Athletics Championships in Stuttgart.
“I knew I could run this time so I’m so glad to have achieved it. I train once a week for the 100m, as a heptathlete, but it is good to have the speed for the long jump and hurdles.”
The world heptathlon bronze medallist was showing her speed again just two hours and three minutes later when she produced another blistering performance to beat US star Allyson Felix in 22.34, shaving another sliver from the national record she had set in Gotzis the previous month.
“Obviously I was a little bit tired after the first race,” was her rather laid back response this time. “I know I can run faster when I’m tired. I’m 22 and I have won a Diamond league event, and that is not normal.”
Maybe not, but Schippers will be attempting something even less normal at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich next week when she tries to match the original ‘flying Dutchwoman’ Fanny Blankers-Koen by winning both sprints.
Who knows whether the inspiration of Blankers-Koen’s exploits from Brussels in 1950 played a part in Schippers’ decision to go for the sprint double rather than the heptathlon, but the multi-talented 22-year-old’s bid to become the 10th woman to achieve the feat is sure to be one of the stories of the championships.
She will, of course, have tough oppposition, in the shape of French favourite Myriam Soumaré and Bulgaria’s defending champion Ivet Lalova, not to mention her Dutch teammate Jamile Samuel in the 100m, while Britain’s Willliams girls, Commonwealth Games medallists Jodie and Bianca, will be hard on her heels in the 200m.
But Schippers is nothing if not a proven championship performer, as her career record shows.
Hailing from Utrecht, Schippers took up athletics aged nine and loved every discipline bar the long-distance events. By the time she was 17 she was already representing her country as a junior in the multi-events, finishing fourth at the 2009 European Athletics Junior Championships in Novi Sad.
Just a year later she added 400 points to her total to break the Dutch junior record and claim gold at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Moncton.
In 2011, she added the European junior title in Tallinn and went on to play a hand in two national senior records at the World Championships in Daegu later that summer, running 22.92 in the individual 200m before helping the Dutch 4x100m team to a new best of 43.44.
Another sprint relay record followed at the 2012 European Athletics Championships in Helsinki where she also finished fifth in the 200m before placing 12th in the London 2012 Olympic heptathlon, aged just 20.
Last summer she claimed her first individual senior medal, winning heptathlon bronze at the Worlds in Moscow with another national record of 6477 points, shortly after winning two medals at the European U23 Championships in Tampere, gold in the 100m and bronze in the long jump.
This year, Schippers’ relentless progress has only picked up pace.
In early June she improved her heptathlon mark to 6545 in Gotzis, while she’s also set national senior or under-23 records at 100m, 150m, 200m and 100m hurdles on the track and – just last weekend at the Dutch championships – in the long jump too.
It’s not for nothing, then, that they call her the new Fanny Blankers-Koen. In Zurich, she aims to prove it, beyond doubt.