Dafne Schippers wins the 200m at the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 (© Getty Images)
It was 68 years ago when 'The Flying Housewife' Fanny Blankers-Koen lifted this title but expectations have reached fever pitch Dafne Schippers can match her compatriot’s achievements over 200m.
Following her transformation from heptathlete to sprinter, the powerfully built Dutchwoman has emerged as a genuine global track and field superstar after demolishing a stellar field at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 to record a stunning 21.63 and move to third on the world all-time list.
This season Schippers has claimed four wins out of five over the distance with her most impressive outing being a world-leading 21.93 in Oslo. Her only blip came at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene when Tori Bowie of the US edged her, but there is little doubt the woman from Utrecht will start favourite.
Expect the US and Jamaica to provide her main opposition, headed by the aforementioned Bowie. The 25-year-old Florida-based athlete not only claimed an impressive win in Eugene in 21.99, but boasts a three-out-of-three record in the 200m, including victory at the uber-competitive US Olympic Trials.
Bowie will be joined on the US team by unheralded Deajah Stevens. The University of Oregon athlete has made a near one-second improvement in the 200m this year (best of 22.25) and placed second at the trials. Jenna Prandini, the third-place finisher in that contest, completes the team buoyed by a useful 22.42 time in her final pre-Rio competitive appearance in Houston.
Campbell-Brown chasing history
The Jamaican challenge is led by the evergreen Veronica Campbell-Brown, who is hoping to create history and secure her third Olympic 200m title. Campbell-Brown struck 200m gold at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics before finishing fourth at the London 2012 Olympics. With a season’s best of 22.29, the 34-year-old is likely to be in the mix.
Her compatriot Elaine Thompson, who grabbed world silver last year, ran a season’s best of 22.16 in Eugene and will pose a significant danger if she has recovered from the minor injuries that prevented her from contesting this event at the Jamaican Championships.
Jamaican champion Simone Facey (22.63), who finished sixth in the 200m final seven years ago at the World Championships in Berlin, is also entered.
Recently-minted European champion Dina Asher-Smith is one of the rising young talents in the half-lap event and she too is more than capable of making an impact. The 20-year-old, who finished fifth at last year’s World Championships, is unbeaten over the distance in 2016 with three wins out of three, including an IAAF Diamond League victory in Stockholm.
Trinidad and Tobago's Michelle-Lee Ahye announced herself as a significant 200m threat after posting a national record of 22.33 when winning her national title in July. Previously better known as a 100m runner, it was a major step forward in the half-lap event for the heavily tattooed Ahye.
The 2013 world bronze medallist Blessing Okagbare is also entered. The Nigerian has skipped the IAAF Diamond League circuit this season but with four wins from four 200m outings this summer and a season’s best of 22.58, she could be one to watch.
Other athletes with designs on making the final include 2013 world silver medallist Murielle Ahoure (22.72) of Ivory Coast and the experienced Ivet Lalova-Collio, who is making her fourth Olympic appearance. The Bulgarian sprinter finished fifth in the 2004 Olympic 200m final but is still a top-class performer, banking silver at the recent European Championships in Amsterdam.
Other names to watch out for include Trinidad and Tobago’s Semoy Hackett (22.61), Australian champion Ella Nelson (22.53), African champion Marie-Josee Ta Lou (22.81) of Ivory Coast and German teenager Gina Luckenkemper (22.67), the European bronze medallist.
Steve Landells for the IAAF