Dafne Schippers had two significant competitions to train for in 2016: her second Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and also the European Athletics Championships on home soil in Amsterdam one month prior.
Schippers was the face of her home championship in a very tangible sense. A giant poster of the Dutch sprinter adorned the entire front of a building on the main road just outside the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam, and in other prominent locations around the city, where she was one the main spectacles.
Schippers won a bronze medal in the heptathlon at the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow but the Dutchwoman had also displayed huge promise in the sprints alongside her early combined events prowess.
Schippers hadn’t fully committed to the sprints when she had the beating of the specialists in the 100m (11.12) and 200m (22.03) finals at the 2014 European Championships in Zurich but she was a fully-fledged and full-time sprinter by the time she competed at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, storming to the 200m title and taking down the seemingly unsurpassable European record with 21.63 in the process.
Despite the emergence of the current world and European 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith who was only 20 at the time, Schippers was at her peak in 2015 and 2016 and would have started as a resounding favourite regardless of which event, or events, she committed to in Amsterdam.
She opted to contest just the 100m individually and with a fervent capacity crowd in attendance - as well as significant numbers watching from home with the women's 100m final commanding a 20 percent share of the Dutch television audience that night - the home favourite rocketed to an unstoppable defence of her title from lane seven in 10.90, winning by an awesome winning margin of three-tenths from Ivet Lalova-Collio from Bulgaria, Schippers’ predecessor as European champion.
“The audience’s applause gave me goosebumps,” commented Schippers on the reception she received from her home crowd.
But before embarking on her lap of honour around the Olympic Stadium, Schippers rushed to check on the condition of her training partner Desiree Henry from Great Britain who cramped up and collapsed midway down the home straight on a cool and drizzly evening in Amsterdam.
Schippers was to take her second lap of honour on the final day of the championships when she played a consequential part in helping the Dutch team to their first European title in the 4x100m relay since 1946 when Fanny Blankers-Koen was active.
They didn’t meet in the individual events but Schippers kept Asher-Smith at bay on the long second leg down the back straight and by the time the baton safely reached the hand of Naomi Sedney on anchor, the home favourites had already amassed a sizeable lead.
Sedney put even more ground between herself and her pursuing British and German counterparts on the last leg, stopping the clock at a national record of 42.04 which remains on the books.
At 27, Schippers is already one of the most bemedalled athletes in European Championships history, accruing eight medals in total across the last four championships.
Schippers opened her medal haul at the 2012 European Championships in Helsinki where she was part of the silver medal-winning team in the 4x100m relay.
The Dutchwoman had to give way to Asher-Smith in the 100m and 200m finals in Berlin two years ago but Schippers still put up a stern defence of her individual crowns, setting season’s bests of 10.99 and 22.14 to win bronze and silver respectively before winning her eighth European medal with silver in the 4x100m.