Schippers delivers a sucker punch

Schippers delivers a sucker punch
Getty Images

The men's and women's 60m heats were held on Saturday morning in Prague.

Had Dafne Schippers' rivals watched her this morning in the 02 Arena, it would not have been the speed out of the blocks, the swift change of body movement in the second half of the race or the way she flew through the line in a personal best which would have been their biggest concern.

What showed the determination most of the Dutch sprinting star was the way she clenched her right fist and furiously pumped her arm five times in succession in celebration after walking away with a victory in the quickest time of the 60m heats.

Her 7.07 was a new personal best by 0.02, and the fastest by a European this year, and in the overall picture there are many others who will be snapping at her heels, such as Great Britain's Dina Asha-Smith and Germany's Veronica Sailer, who both produced their fastest ever times of 7.10.

Yet the difference with Schippers was an authority she commanded from, as they used to say in the olden days, gun to tape.

It is, of course, no surprise that she has this aura about her. Schippers is the European champion at 100m and 200m, a golden double that lit up the Letzigrund Stadium in Zurich last summer.

Not bad for a multi-eventer by nature, expect now sprinting has become her real trade.

Yet, there is such a divide between what is expected in the heat of an indoor arena in March and the wind and cool evening air of an outdoor stadium in August.

In the 100m and 200m, there is at least, a very brief split second to right any wrongs if the race does not go according to plan; in the 60m, there is not.

It is why Schippers, speaking exclusively to European Athletics after her race, revealed why she has worked so hard this winter on her starts.

She said: "I am more of a 100m and 200m runner and not a 60m runner, and my starts are now much better than last year. They were very bad and now they are okay and that is the difference.

"Normally I would train once in three weeks on the starts but now I have been training every week on them and it is working. I am happy with the time, it was a good race, and I hope I can go quicker."

While nothing can be taken for granted in sport, with semi-finals first on Sunday afternoon, it would be some shock if Schippers does not end the weekend with a medal around her neck.