Author: Derek Schippers
In the aftermath of the World Championships in Beijing, Dafne Schippers’ life changed for good. In no time, the athlete went from being ‘good’ to an absolute superstar. For the majority she might seem to have come ‘out of nowhere’. Athletic fans, however, already knew her performances of recent times were nothing but a logical consequence of something very promising she started years ago. Below you’ll find a brief overview of Dafne ‘s young but already impressive career.
A coincedence. Perhaps this is how you could describe Dafne’s first experience with athletics. Or was it? Not long after Dafne started playing tennis, it became quite clear that her (already present) speed and fanaticism wouldn’t make her a better tennis player. It was just a matter of time before Dafne would find a sport that would fit her perfectly. During a sponsor run at the tennisclub, her impressive running ability cought the eye of many people. Being her curious self, she visited track and field club Hellas in Utrecht, a visit that made her fall in love with athletics immediately. Nine years of age at that time, and completely unaware of what that choice would bring her in the future.
The early years are devoted to exploring the various disciplines in athletics. It’s the versatility that makes her enjoy the sport the fullest. And instead of specializing in one, she develops her potential in all the different disciplines. Soon, Dafne is recognized as one of the biggest talents in her age group and the first successes soon follow. At the age of 17, Dafne competes in her first ever international tournament in Novi Sad (Serbia, 2009). During the two days of the heptathlon she already shows her competitors that she is one to be reckoned with. She ends the heptathlon in Novi Sad with the highest score ever achieved by a Dutch athlete of that age. In that same year, Dafne wins several National titles. In 2010 she becomes World Junior Champion in the heptathlon (Moncton, CAN), including an impressive 200m at the end of day 1. By then, the entire athletics community agrees on one thing: Dafne Schippers will become one of the best.
In 2010, Dafne switches from junior to senior level without having any problems adjusting. On national, but especially on international level, she manages to develop rapidly and shows just how good she has already become. In the following years, she crushes many national records, some of them even older then she is, and she claims her spot between the best athletes in the world. At first in the heptathlon, with the bronze medal during the World Championships (Moscow) as an absolute highlight. Unfortunately, due to some physical discomforts, she has to say goodbye to her aspirations in the heptathlon. This results to the decision in 2014, to focus solely on the sprint. It would turn out to be an excellent decision. In no time, she’s crowned as Europe’s Queen of Sprint, winning gold in the 100m as well as 200m at the European Championships (Prague).
Sprint on the highest level
In 2015, the newly crowned Queen of Sprint claims another impressive European title: the 60m indoor. Shortly after this she manages to beat the magical 11 seconds barrier on the 100m on home soil in front of her family in Hengelo. This unique record lasts only two months, before beating it with 2/100’s. The signs leading up to the World Championships in Beijing were favorable, to say the least. Yes, she’d already beaten several world class athletes, but to do so on this worldwide stage would mean a whole different thing, surely. But by winning silver on the 100m and gold on the 200m, Dafne proved she was able to take on the world’s best and to perform under high pressure. In Beijing she wrote her name in athletics history. In february 2016, Dafne is the fastest women in the world on the 200 metres.
Olympic Games in Rio
After the remarkable results in Beijing, another great goal awaits in 2016: to shine at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. During the months leading up to Rio, expectations grow and pressure increases. Dafne is considered to be anything but the casual outsider. She competes in numeral races in preparation for the Olympics. With the indoor season barely underway, she equals the Dutch national record of 7.00s. in Berlin. This time gets her in the top 10 of fastest races ever in the 60m indoor. Being one of the most popular athletes of the Diamond League, she proves her status of world class sprinter by claiming either a first or second place in every race she takes part in. Also during the World Indoor Championships (2nd place) and the European Championships in her home country (1st place) she shows her good form. Because of this impressive streak, many consider her to be a favorite for a medal at the Olympics, both in the 100 and 200 meters. During the semi finales of the 100 meters the finish times are really close to each other, making the battle for an Olympic medal more exiting than ever before. Unfortunately, Dafne suffers from a physical discomfort in anticipation of the final, which leaves her empty handed in the end, finishing fifth. The 200 meters is next in which Dafne finishes second, making her take home her first ever Olympic medal: silver it is. Even though the disappointment is clearly visible, this silver medal is a historic one and one to be really proud considering the competitive discipline. After the Olympics, Dafne goes on to claim the overall victory in the 200m Diamond League competition.
To be able to compete again with the world’s best athletes and fight for the medals in London during the World Championships, 2017 is considered to be the year of innovation. By changing coaches and training group, a whole new path is chosen. This change also means skipping the indoor season and even more effort is being put in training like a real sprinter. A new approach demands patience and time and with this process in motion, improvement is noticable during the Diamond League season. Improvement that must lead to an absolute peak in London where the world title is at stake. A title Dafne still holds after that memorable performance in Beijing. In London Dafne will compete in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. As Dafne herself puts it: “I went to Beijing thinking I’m just gonna race and enjoy it’. That feeling is back now. I want to prove that I belong here, on this stage, and just enjoy my races. Just like I did back in 2015. All I have to do is trust this feeling, and it will all turn out good in the end!”