As a sporting nation, we tend to focus and glorify one sport in particular: Football (or soccer to my North American friends). We’re also very chuffed with our field hockey teams, speed skaters and the occasional gymnast.
In terms of track and field, The Netherlands generally does not strike fear in the hearts of many…until now.
Who is Dafne Schippers?
Introducing Dafne Schippers, the leggy 23 year old, Utrecht-born athlete who took the world by storm at the Athletics World Championships in Beijing, first by taking silver at the 100m sprint losing by 0.05th of a second, only to go one better by winning a historic gold at the 200m with a Championship-record time and third fastest time ever of 21.63. Despite the absence of the two favorites (Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and American Allyson Felix) this result will undoubtedly catapult her into the limelight.
In doing so, she has shocked the Dutch pubic into re-embracing track and field, creating a sense of national pride unheard of since the legendary Fanny Blankers- Koen won the Sprint double at the 1948 Olympics.
What perhaps is even more astonishing is the path that Dafne Schippers has taken to become one of the most feared female sprinters in athletics today. Originally a gifted heptathlete, she only decided to focus solely on sprinting in June 2015, a mere two months before winning silver and gold respectively. This has sent shockwaves through the traditional hierarchy of top class sprinting with athletes from Jamaica and the United States suddenly having to potentially contend with the tall blonde sensation at the Olympic Games in Rio.
The Dutch Usain Bolt?
So have we unearthed our own “Usain Bolt”? In terms of her height, pace and running style she definitely shares some of the key characteristics that have enabled the King of Sprint to dominate the sport for so many years. Now, in order to avoid being accused of comparing apples and oranges, I would remind readers that in both male and female sprinting the meteoric rise of Dafne Schippers is a remarkable accomplishment, something which we will probably not see for a very, very long time. One thing is for sure: there will be many more Dutch eyes glued to the television watching and hoping to see if our own Dafne Schippers can repeat and better her miraculous successes from Beijing.