Schippers: From outsider to world sprint champion in 1 year

BEIJING (AP) Forgive Dafne Schippers for being dazed and dizzy.

Running the fastest 200 meters at sea level in more than a quarter century does that to you. What stupefies her even more is the realization where she is now and where she came from in barely a year.

''Give me some time to myself to think about what is happening to me,'' Schippers said Friday after winning her first world title and adding it to her 100-meter silver to become one of the world's top sprinters a year ahead of the Olympics.

After clawing back in a race at the Bird's Nest and winning with a dip to the line, the 23-year-old Schippers fell to the track, holding her hand to her head in disbelief.

After all, early last year she was still committed to spending her career as a little-known athlete excelling at the seven-event heptathlon, which is appreciated by few outside a tight group of cognoscenti. She has a bronze medal from the 2013 world championships to show for it.

Those were times of punishing workouts to master skills in everything from the shot put to the high jump.

Now, she stands out as an orange-clad Dutchwoman in a sport dominated by American and Caribbean runners over the past dozen years.

The moment that made all the difference came at a training camp in Daytona Beach, Florida, in April 2014, when her sheer speed as a heptathlete drew gasps of admiration. Surely, with some work, she could become a good sprinter.

''At that point I thought, `Who knows?''' Schippers said.

With little specialized practice, she tried the sprints at last year's European championships and came away with two gold medals.

At 22, sprinting it would be.

All through this season as she was getting sharper, she centered her training only on the sprints. From bad, her start has improved to the extent that she stayed in touch with the 100-meter finalists and chased down everyone except champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

Then came her best event, the 200. In the semifinals, she breezed through with the ease of Usain Bolt.

In the final, she still had to run down three rivals ahead of her in the finishing straight, including Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown. But Schippers learned from her experience in the heptathlon.

''It helped me because when my body doesn't feel good, your mind is strong,'' said Schippers, who won in 21.63 seconds, a championship and European record.

Her results have the Dutch hoping they might have found a new Fanny Blankers-Koen, the sporting icon who won four sprint gold medals at the 1948 London Olympics.

Only two women have run faster than Schippers over 200 meters, and only one of them did it at sea level. The late Florence Griffith-Joyner ran 21.56 and 21.34 at the 1988 Olympics, while Marion Jones ran 21.62 at altitude in South Africa in 1998.

Schippers is convinced there is much more in her.

''Of course it can go faster. It can always go faster,'' Schippers said. ''The more you practice, the more you get it under control.''

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Raf Casert can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rcasert

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