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Schippers back on top of the world after hard times

Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers wins the final of the women’s 200m athletics event at the 2017 IAAF World Championships at the London Stadium in London on August 11, 2017 © AFP / Glyn KIRK

LONDON, United Kingdom, Aug 12 – Dafne Schippers joined illustrious company when she retained her world 200 metres title and the frown of last year was replaced by the return of the broad grin of 2015.

There may have been no Elaine Thompson, her bete noire of last year who won both the Olympic 100m and 200m with Schippers taking silver in the latter, or America’s 100m world champion Tori Bowie but it mattered not a jot to the statuesque 25-year-old Dutchwoman.

For Schippers’ thrilling victory over the diminutive Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou — taking silver as she did in the 100m — placed her name among the goddesses of the event Jamaican Merlene Ottey and Allyson Felix of the United States in winning the 200m world title more than once.

For Schippers it was a case of showing she was not a flash in the pan and that her decision to change her coach — from her old heptathlon to a sprint expert — had been justified.

“It was very important to win. I worked so hard in the last years and last year was not the easiest for me,” said Schippers, whose family were in the stadium watching.

“I changed everything and got a new coach, so I’m very happy.

“I fought for that.”

That fighting spirit ethos which is prevalent amongst the sprinters is one of the factors that persuaded Schippers to ditch the heptathlon.

“Yes, sprinters are more like gladiators but I don’t really miss the heptathlon. I like to beat the tough girls,” she told The Guardian last year.

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Schippers may prefer the gladiatorial combat of the sprints once they rise from the blocks but despite her imposing physique she does not enjoy the trash talk and intimidatory pre-race eyeing up of opponents.

“People do do that,” she told The Guardian.

“But I chose not to do it myself. It’s just not my style. I find it amusing when other sprinters do and I just smile at them.

“The girls in the heptathlon are definitely more easy-going and much friendlier,” said Schippers.

– ‘It’s hard with my skin’ –

Schippers, whose relations with Jamaican star Thompson she admits are ‘very bad’, has also had to face questions as to whether she has been doping — severe acne on her face and back prompting question marks.

“I hate it,” she told the Daily Mail last year.

“I hate it when people ask me those questions.

“I work so hard as a really good athlete, do my diet, follow the sleep patterns and live my life for the sport.

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“When someone asks you things like that, it’s really hard. What can you say?

“It’s hard with my skin. It’s me and who I am. Acne is something that runs in the family, even our mother had acne until she was 30 or 40. Some people say, ‘Oh that’s a typical sign of doping’.

“As a woman, it’s not so funny to suffer from acne.”

For now, though, Schippers can bask in the glory her golden girl image restored plus her marketability although it is hard to imagine what more her home town of Utrecht can do to honour their favourite daughter.

“After Beijing (in 2015), when I walked on the streets, there were a lot of people asking for autographs, pictures on the streets,” she said after Friday’s victory.

“It was harder to deal with it but in fact it is cool because I did a great job. And to have a bridge, which is the most important bridge in our country –- that is special to have my name on that.”

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