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Athletics World Championships

Willpower makes Schippers third-fastest woman of all time

Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands after winning the women's 200m final
Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands after winning the women's 200m final Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

She narrowly lost to a Jamaican in the 100 metres final on Monday and she edged past another on Friday night to claim the 200 metres crown. In that moment of victory Dafne Schippers ended a duopoly that has dominated women’s sprinting over the past decade.


The 23-year-old from Utrecht in the Netherlands became the first European to win the 200 metres world championship title since Anastasiya Kapachinskaya held off the American Torri Edwards in the final in Paris in 2003.

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Schippers set a world championship record time of 21.63 seconds to take her first gold medal at the world games. Elaine Thompson won silver and the Jamaican former champion Veronica Campbell-Brown was third.

It was the first outdoor world or Olympic sprint title for the Netherlands since Fanny Blankers-Koen won both sprints at the London Olympics in 1948.

Breaking such a drought will be welcomed back home in the Netherlands and the win will hearten athletes on the circuit. In the five 200 metres finals at the world championships since Kapachinskaya’s title, Allyson Felix from the United States has won three and the Jamaicans Campbell Brown and Shelley-Ann Fraser-Price, the other two.

“I’m unbelievably happy with this,” said Schippers in the immediate aftermath of her win. “I think I’ll need some time to understand it.”

She probably won’t get much of that. Already the poster girl of Dutch athletics, she is likely to be swept up by the marketing machine of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) – the body which organises the championships.

Schippers is a heaven-sent opportunity to show that sprinting isn’t necessarily a black thing. And to think the success nearly never happened. Schippers only decided to concentrate on sprinting earlier this year after another knee injury from competing in the heptathlon – in which she won a bronze medal at the 2013 Moscow games – forced her to withdraw from a meeting in Gotzis.

Yet the willpower which forms the basis of the combined events served her well. Thompson led Friday night’s race as they came off the bend and most of the way up the straight. But Schippers did not yield and pipped her on the line.

It was only the second time in history that the top three women finished in less than 22 seconds in the same race.

The last time that happened was at the 1988 Olympic final. Schippers also broke the European record of 21.71 set by Marita Koch in 1979 and equalled by Heike Drechsler in 1986.

She’s now the third-fastest woman of all time at the distance behind Florence Griffith-Joyner and Marion Jones.

All that from one race. Campbell-Brown, who at 33 is the doyenne of the circuit, had some words of wisdom for Schippers and Thompson, who, like Schippers, has just turned 23.

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