Reigning champions Schippers and Asher-Smith to clash across three events

Schippers and Lasitskene scoop prestigious national awards
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Dafne Schippers will face strong opposition in the 100m and 200m at the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships

Since Dafne Schippers decided to focus on the sprints in 2014, she has won at least one gold medal every summer.

But this sensational run of consistency and success over the last four years will come under pressure on the European stage for the first time in the Olympic Stadium at the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships.

It would not be a surprise if Schippers wins either - or both - the 100m and 200m because of the stature she has created for delivering at the major events but in Dina Asher-Smith, she has a rival which makes both these races potentially thrilling.

Asher-Smith also knows how to deliver in major events. She is, of course, the defending European 200m champion after winning in Amsterdam. Schippers opted to defend only her 100m crown in 2016, which she did successfully in a summer in which then went on to win silver in the 200m at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The 200m remains Schippers’ ultimate distance after retaining her world title in London last summer having won in Beijing two years prior in a European record of 21.63 but Asher-Smith will not want to give up her crown without a fight. She is narrowly ahead of the Dutch superstar based on season’s bests - 22.25 to 22.34 - as the two stand first and second respectively on the 2018 European lists.

It is a similar scenario in the 100m, with Asher-Smith top of the lists with her national record of 10.92 from the Bislett Games in Oslo in June. European bronze medallist Mujinga Kambundji from Switzerland is second with her own national record of 10.95 from the Swiss Championships. Schippers, who was the European 100m and 200m champion in Zurich in 2014, is third with 11.01.

Asher-Smith has broken the 11 second-barrier three times in 2018 and she will look to build even more on that in a race where the starting ability of Schippers could be the key. If she gets away well, she will be hard to pass.

The 200m is not only about Asher-Smith and Schippers because her Dutch teammate Jamile Samuel is having a fine season. She clocked 22.37 in the London Diamond League to finish ahead of Schippers and move to third on the European lists. Kambundji, who has clocked 22.48 this season, is doubling up too.

Kambundji has been prolific in the 100m this summer, smashing 11-seconds for the first time in her career at the Swiss Championships in Zofingen in July. She had just set a national record with 11.03 in Lausanne earlier in the month.

And that was some night in front of her own Swiss fans. Kambundji, Ajla del Ponte, Sarah Atcho and Salome Kora combined to break the national 4x100m record with 42.29.

That quartet are all in the Swiss squad but hosts Germany will start as the quickest with 42.24 this summer. Great Britain clocked 42.36 even without Asher-Smith in the team in London while the Netherlands, whose team is set to include both Schippers and Samuel, will put up a staunch defence of their title.

When it comes to the 400m, Libania Grenot from Italy is chasing a hat-trick of titles after her successes in Zurich and Amsterdam and while this might not have been her quickest year – she is 11th on the European lists with 51.32 – she knows how to peak at the championships.

On times alone, Lisanne de Witte from the Netherlands (50.96) and Lithuania’s Agne Serksniene (50.99) should be in the title hunt. The European leader is Lea Sprunger from Switzerland with 50.52 but her aim is elsewhere.

Sprunger, who was initially planning to double up in Berlin, is looking to build on her 400m hurdles bronze from Amsterdam. The Swiss star is also top of the lists in the 400m hurdles with her 54.79 from Lausanne but former champion Eilidh Doyle is just behind with 54.80, a time she set in the heats at the Commonwealth Games.

Then there is Zuzana Hejnova from the Czech Republic. A two-time world champion and Olympic bronze medallist, she has never won a medal at the European Championships and will be out to put that right. Hejnova has been injured this summer but she returned to competition last weekend with victory at her domestic championships in 56.08.

Great Britain are defending champions in the 4x400m and with four of their team members running between 51.13 and 51.70 in the London Diamond League last month, they will be challenging for top-spot on the podium again. France will be tough with renowned relay runner Floria Guei expected to feature while Poland can always be relied upon in the 4x400m.

There should be many great moments for the host nation at the championships and the 100m hurdles is right up but what a standard has been reached in this event.

Of the top eight on the 2018 European lists, five have broken national records during this outdoor season. Of the three who haven’t, Germans Pamela Dutkiewicz and Cindy Roleder both have excellent championships pedigree. Dutkiewicz won a bronze medal at the IAAF World Championships last year and Roleder is the reigning European champion both indoors and outdoors.

European leader Alina Talay from Belarus has run a national record of 12.41 this season - and has been consistently under the 12.6 mark in 2018 - while her teammate and former European U20 champion Elvira Herman landed a national U23 record of 12.64.

There was a Dutch record in Stockholm for Nadine Visser of 12.71 and a Norwegian one in London of 12.72 for Isabelle Pedersen. At the Hungarian Championships, Luca Kozak ran an U23 record of 12.86.

With Dutkiewicz on 12.67, Eline Berings on 12.72 - just 0.01 shy of the national record - and reigning champion Roleder on 12.81, the message is clear for this race: blink and you will miss something special.