Dafne Schippers crosses the 200m finish line at the IAAF World Championships London 2017
When Dafne Schippers made her Olympic debut at the London Stadium in 2012 she was a bit-part player on what became known as Super Saturday.
Before Jessica Ennis-Hill stepped forward to win the fourth heat of the heptathlon 800m to become the first of three British gold medal winners in the space of 47 minutes, Schippers had crossed a barely noticed sixth in the penultimate heat, finishing 11th overall in the seven-event competition.
Five years on, at the business end of her third season as a Flying Dutchwoman of the sprints rather than a would-be multi-eventer, the 25-year-old pride of Utrecht flew round the bend and down the home straight of the London arena to her second 200m world title.
All season long Schippers has been struggling to find the form that took her to gold in Beijing two years ago and to Olympic silver behind Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson in Rio de Janeiro last year but she has been steadily stepping through the gears in London and tonight, when it mattered most, she found enough to finish out in front. Only just, mind.
Drawn two lanes inside her in lane four, the diminutive Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou got off to a cracking start but Schippers was out smartly too, The pair were level off the bend, with Shaunae Miller-Uibo too far back to threaten, and slugged it out all the way down the home straight, Schippers prevailing by 0.03 in 22.05, a season’s best.
Having lost the 100m final on the line to Tori Bowie’s dip by 0.01, Ta Lou had to settle for another silver lining, this time in a national record 22.08.
After dramatically fading out of the medal picture in the last 20 metres of the 400m final, Miller-Uibo took a consolation bronze in 22.15. The long-legged Bahamian was followed home by Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith, the 21-year-old Londoner finishing fourth in a season’s best of 22.22 – the joint third fastest time of her career, a remarkable achievement considering she broke a bone in her foot in February and opened her season in late June.
For Schippers, victory was a reward for the hard work she has put in under the guidance of her new coach Rana Reider, who guided Christian Taylor to triple jump gold on Thursday, at the Dutch National Training Centre in Papendal.
“It was a close race,” she said, overcome with emotion before a tearful lap of honour. “It was a final I won. I’m very happy with this gold medal.”
At the Olympic Games in Rio last year Schippers had to settle for silver behind Jamaica’s sprint double winner Elaine Thompson in 21.88. This season she has slipped under the radar of favouritism, arriving in London only sixth on the 2017 world list with 22.10.
The bronze she won in the 100m final on Sunday went largely unnoticed behind the close run race for gold between Bowie and Ta Lou but clearly she has been peaking to perfection under Reider.
"It was very important to win,” Schippers added. “I’ve worked so hard and last year was not the easiest for me. I changed everything and got a new coach, so I'm very happy.
"It's great, especially with the gold medal. My secret is enjoying the sport and enjoying my racing. I feel a little bit nervous starting out, but I'm a final runner and I'm grateful for the experience now it's over."
Ta Lou was in sanguine mood. "Another silver but I am so happy,” she reflected. “At the camp before these championships, I felt a problem in my legs but I didn't want to tell my coach. I prayed that I would be ok and I have been.
"I did all I could in that race. To get a silver medal is more than I could have asked for. I am so grateful for having a championships like this. It has been a special week for me.
"I am very proud of both medals. I hope I have inspired a lot of girls back in the Ivory Coast."
Miller-Uibo said: “I'm thankful for my performance. The ladies brought their A game and it was really competitive. That's what I love to do: compete against the best. It was an amazing feeling, I had some fun and now I'm going home with a bronze medal too, so I'm really happy.
"It's been a great experience for me, with my first attempt at the double. It was different but I liked it. I'm definitely going to try it again in 2019. The crowd was amazing, I loved competing here. They just roar from the get go and really get your spirit going."
Asher-Smith, a kit carrier for Ennis-Hill on that Super Saturday night five years ago, reflected: "I was coming down the home straight thinking, 'I didn't know I was in this kind of shape'.
“But to see I missed out on a bronze medal by 0.07… when you've broken your foot, it's really not that much. I'm quite frustrated but in reflection I'm really happy to have done a 22.2 off hardly any training.”
Behind Asher-Smith, Britain’s fifth fourth-placed finisher of the championships, US duo Deajah Stevens (22.44) and Kimberlyn Duncan (22.59) were fifth and sixth – followed by Canada’s Crystal Emmanuel in seventh (22.60) and Tynia Gaither of the Bahamas (23.07).
Simon Turnbull for the IAAF