Sandra Perkovic and Dafne Schippers ahead of the 2014 IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich (© Jean-Pierre Durand)
The traditional press conference the day before any IAAF Diamond League meeting saw four athletes who had made their mark in Zurich at the European Championships earlier in August take the stage to talk about their achievements in the Swiss city and look ahead to the first of this year’s IAAF Diamond League finals.
The quartet consisted of double Dutch champion Dafne Schippers, a winner over 100m and 200m in Zurich little more than a week ago, Croatian discus thrower Sandra Perkovic, who won her European title with a stunning effort of 71.08m, and the British sprint pair of James Dasaolu and Adam Gemili, the European champions over 100m and 200m respectively.
Schippers created a sensation when, in addition to the 100m, she won the 200m in a national record of 22.03, feats which have elevated her to superstar status at home, but she admitted that she has not really had any chance to enjoy the adulation.
“I have actually been back to the Netherlands only for one day after the European Championships," she said. "After that I went on vacation to Italy to have some rest and do some training, and that was very nice, especially as the weather was better than the Netherlands, and then I have come here.
“I’ve trained a little but I also needed some rest after eight races (at the European Championships).”
Having won a heptathlon bronze medal at the 2013 World Championships and currently lying fourth on this year’s world list for the event after her national record of 6545 in Gotzis, she confessed that she is still undecided about which discipline, or disciplines, to tackle at next year’s IAAF World Championships in Beijing.
It’s a decision that is unlikely to be made until well into next season.
“After the sprinting this season, I will talk with my coach. I will go to Gotzis next year for the heptathlon and then, after that we will see. This summer, I still did my normal training and trained for the heptathlon.”
She could possibly have got another medal on her last trip to Zurich but was part of a botched changeover which left the Dutch ruing their bad luck.
“It’s a relay and you can make mistakes. The team was a little bit nervous and that’s when there can be problems sometimes. I think after the heats we thought that we can win a medal, maybe even the gold medal, and we took more risks, too many risks in the final."
11-second barrier beckons
If the weather holds, Schippers also hopes to go under 11 seconds on Thursday night or, at least, improve on her national record of 11.03 which she set last month at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Glasgow.
Perkovic, like Schippers, was also relishing her return to Zurich, having already secured the Diamond Race in her event.
“The atmosphere is great, the circle is perfect. All the conditions are great, even the weather although I hope that tomorrow it will be sunny,” she commented, remembering that conditions were far from ideal during the European Championships.
She predicted that she could again get close to 70 metres, or maybe beyond that mark, a distance nobody but her has reached in more than a decade, but she also wants her rivals to raise their game in the Letzigrund Stadium.
“I like it when the other girls throw very far. For example, when we were in Shanghai (at the IAAF Diamond League meeting there in May), when Dani Samuels threw over 67 metres I knew that potentially she could beat me and that’s when I threw 70 metres.
“I hope the girls are in good shape because, if they aren’t, I get a little bit relaxed and I’m not throwing so good; so I prefer they throw far.
“I came to the Europeans well prepared and thought that I could throw over 70 (metres), as the competition started my second attempt was easily 67 and then 68. Before the fifth round, I knew something was coming, when the discus left my hand I knew it was going to go very far but when I saw 71.08 on the screen, I couldn’t imagine that was going to happen at the Europeans.
“After the Continental Cup in Marrakesh, my season will end. I’ll go back to Croatia and stay there, maybe I’ll go to Dubrovnik or Split for some holiday, I don’t know yet,” added Perkovic, casting her thoughts a little further into the future, and perhaps thinking about some holidays.
Dasaolu out to avoid drama
Accompanying Schippers and Perkovic as part of the European team going to the IAAF Continental Cup, which will be staged in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh on 13-14 September, will be British sprinter James Dasaolu.
Despite being the continental champion, the once injury-prone Dasaolu was keen to emphasise that he still has his feet on the ground.
“I still have some work and improvement to do if I want to compete with the best guys in the world," he said. "In 2012, I joined up with a new coach, Steven Fudge. He has built a team around me with a good therapist, good massage, and good chiropractor to just keep me healthy. He writes the programme and monitors my training, and makes sure I’m not overloaded in training."
As European 100m champion, Dasaolu will face some of the men he terms the “the best guys in the world” in Marrakesh next month.
“I definitely will be competing at the Continental Cup, it’s a unique event, it’s going to be very exciting.
“Considering the relay, I haven’t practised with the team because of my injuries earlier in the season. I don’t know if I’ll be added but I always put myself up for a nomination. If the team needs me, I’m always available but we have got a good bunch of guys."
Nevertheless, despite his uncertainly, and unlike at the European Championships, Dasaolu may potentially be part of the 4x100m relay team – with Great Britain representing Europe as the gold medallists at the European Championships – because his team mate Adam Gemili will not be taking up his invitation to pull on a European vest.
“I had a conversation with my coach and we’ve had a long season this year, with the Commonwealths and the Europeans," said Gemili. "It would have been special to compete there (in Marrakesh) but it’s a bit too much for me this year.
“I need to keep my body healthy and fit and concentrate on the World Championships rather than go there and pick up a little stupid niggle.
“After this race (Gemili, like Dasaolu, will be competing in the non-Diamond League men’s 100m in Zurich), I may have one more race and then cut it for the season,” said Gemili.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF