ZURICH (AP) — 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 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 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,” she said.
There is a lot to learn though. Her start lacks zip. It had little impact on the 200, but over 100 it leaves her with a lot of work to do. Against top class global opposition, it would be fatal.
“It has got to get a lot better in the 100. It works in training but in competition it has to get a lot better.” Over the 100, she is only the 13th strongest performer, largely because of it. At her age though, there is a lot of future ahead of her.
“But first I have to enjoy this week,” she said. She can still get a triple by winning the relay with the Dutch team on Sunday.
With her double, she already is evoking memories of her Dutch compatriot Fanny Blankers-Koen, who won a sprint triple in 1950, two years after winning four gold at the London Olympics.
In the 1,500, Sifan Hassan, a transferee from Ethiopia, added a second gold on the night for the Dutch, sweeping past Sweden’s Abeba Aregawi in the finishing straight. Hassan also goes for a double, competing in the 5,000 on Saturday.
In the men’s 400, Martyn Rooney led a British one-two across the linve with teenager Matthew Hudson-Smith taking silver. It was another double in the 800, a Polish one at that, where Adam Kszczot won ahead of Artur Kuciapski. And Adam Gemili won the men’s 200 for a second British gold.
France also got two gold – and a world record. Yohann Diniz fought through stomach pains throughout the race and still set a world record in the 50-kilometer walk to win the European title for a third time.
With Schippers sprinting, the heptathlon was wide open, and Antoinette Nana Djimou profited to take gold ahead of Dutch backup Nadine Broersen.
In the men’s high jump, the cold and wet conditions made an attempt on the world record irrealistic but world champion Bogdan Bondarenko still won with a jump of 2.35 ahead of fellow Ukrainian Andriy Protsenko and Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov.
The biggest cheer of the night was for Kariem Hussein, who gave the host nation its first gold of the competition by winning the 400 hurdles.
Raf Casert can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rcasert