ZURICH – Suddenly, Europe again has a star sprinter who can compete with the best of the Americans and Jamaicans.
Her name is Dafne Schippers. The 22-year-old is from the Netherlands and on a cold, wet and windy Friday night she ran the fastest 200 meters this year by far to clinch a sprint double at the European Championships.
The thing is — she is a top heptathlete with world championship bronze to show for it, now trying out a summer of sprinting because a training camp in Florida showed she had amazing speed this year.
“Bizarre,” was the recurring word in an interview with The Associated Press after her second sprint gold. “There is no way I could have thought this possible a few weeks ago. Now it is slowly starting to dawn on me.”
Schippers blew away all opposition once she hit the home straight and won in 22.03 seconds running into a slight headwind and on a wet Letzigrund track. Britain’s Jodie Williams took silver ahead of France’s Myriam Soumare.
Schippers put up one finger in the air as she crossed the line before clenching both fists in celebration. Headstrong right up to the medal podium when she finally broke down with tears hearing the Wilhelmus anthem. “Two gold medals, it feels so good,” she said.
The choice for the future now becomes daunting. Stay with the heptathlon, a multi-event competition with limited appeal beyond cognoscenti, or go for high-octane sprinting which takes center stage at world championships and Olympics.
Over a week in Zurich, her steadfast determination to stick with the heptathlon has started wavering as she started tasting the adulation sprinting brings.
“My family says the whole of the Netherlands is about to explode,” she said. “Now I first have to let it all sink in.”