Dafne Schippers was a good athlete to interview. Some of her races were absolutely amazing, like her London 2017 win! Stuart Weir sent us this tribute. 

Dafne Schippers retires

Dafne Schippers has announced her retirement aged just 31. In a great career, she excelled at 200m but was pretty good at 100m as well.  World Champion at 200m in 2015 and 2017, as well as taking silver in the 100 in 2015 and bronze in 2017.  This has also won 4 gold, 3 silver, and a bronze medal at European Champs.  What many people don’t know is that she gained a bronze medal in the 2013 World Champs in the heptathlon before deciding to concentrate on sprinting. She said that her reasons for the switch were that she kept getting injured as a heptathlete, and also she was surprised at how fast she was running and decided to try sprinting for a year and then never went back to heptathlon.

Dafne Schippers, photo by European Athletics

She made the retirement announcement on Instagram: “The race stops here. As an athlete, you always know this day will come, that at one point, your career will be a moment in time – a collection of memories and hopefully medals. Today, I have decided to take my life off the track to pursue and embrace whatever comes next, but not without saying a massive thank you for all the endless support. It has been a journey without regret”.  Her last race was in July 2022 in Belgium.

I have watched her many times, including all her Championships, and have spoken to her a number of times. She told me that she had very special memories of the 2017 London World Championships: “First that, I won the gold medal.  That’s always a very special moment.  And the second time in a row, I was the world champion. It’s always special to win the gold medal at the World Championship.  It was very cool to compete in London because it’s a very nice stadium.  And the atmosphere was great. Two-time world champion in the 200 is special.  Not many people have done that, so I was really happy with that”.

Marie Jose TaLou, Dafne Schippers, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, photo by World Athletics

When she won the World Championship in Beijing in 2015, she was the third fastest woman ever at 200.  I remember asking her if that was important to her.  She replied: “Not really.  Most of the time I’m not thinking about times.  If you go to a competition and you want to be the fastest one on that day and the time doesn’t matter.  Of course, it’s nice to run fast times, but winning is what matters”.  She was also reluctant to comment on being the only white sprinter at that level- saying that she was an athlete and that race was irrelevant.

Fame did not sit easily with her: “It is not always easy.  When I walk down the street, people want a photo.  Sometimes, you are really tired and not in the mood for it.  I’m getting used to it.  I am really a person who likes to be in the background, so for me, it was a new thing which I didn’t like particularly”.

Stuart Weir and Dafne Schippers at a press gathering, photo by Stuart Weir

She gave an interesting insight into coming from a small country: “I wish that people in the Netherlands would understand better what I do.  Track and field is a small sport in the Netherlands.  Sometimes, people think it is easy for me to go to the World Championship and come back with a gold medal.  I try to come back with a gold medal – I work hard for that – but it’s not easy.  I would appreciate a little bit more understanding that athletics is a big sport in the world”.   

One answer she gave made me smile.  She was asked if she might run the 400m.  She replied: “I think I could run 400, but whether I would like it is another matter”.

This Bridge is named after Dafne Schippers, a photo from the Web.

Many athletes have won medals and broken records, but not many, like Dafne, have a bridge named after her – in Utrecht, her home city. She told me that if she won an Olympic gold – sadly, she only managed a silver and had to settle for a bridge.

A superb athlete and a lovely person who will be missed on the circuit.