Athlete Daphne Scheepers tried everything in her power to return to the world top, but it was no longer possible. At the age of 31, earlier than expected, the two-time world champion says goodbye to her beloved sport. “I could have enjoyed it a little more.”
When Daphne Scheepers walks into the reserved room at Babendaale Sports Center at 3pm, she sees a place she can now dream about. Cameras were directed toward a table with a microphone and rows of chairs for reporters and photographers. “I feel like I’m going to race,” she says with a laugh.
But it’s different today. This press conference aims to explain to a selected group their decision to leave the major sport. The Goldenspur meet in Kortrijk, Belgium, in July last year was her last competition for good.
It seems that her decision is completely new. “I’ve only known about it for about two weeks. The lead up to it was of course very long, and I had real doubts for a month, but a couple of weeks ago I had a feeling it was real enough. And then I don’t want to mess around with that for too long. Then I want to To get rid of it, to be able to move on and have peace to be who I am again.
This may seem difficult, but it was also the final stage of her amazing sporting career. Her body began to struggle more and more, and the world champion increasingly disappeared from sight.
She witnessed the World Cup this summer as an analyst. The president desperately wanted to compete with the fastest women in the world, to feel the speed she achieved during her glory years, but her weak back in particular made a return to the top level impossible.
This realization has already come to light in Texel on Shippers. She went on her parents’ vacation and went to the track and field. “My body kept protesting. Then I thought: Is this really worth it? I walked there for a while and that feeling stayed after that. I’ve always said that I want to compete for the highest places in the world, otherwise I’ll be doing something else that’s fun. And I’ve noticed now that “My body still bothers me every day. And that’s not going away.”
She talks about the broken vertebra, the double Achilles tendonitis, and the uncertainty when she sat down at the starting position. She calls them signals that her body no longer wants her and identifies her search for solutions. She has visited almost all medical specialists in the Netherlands and has also traveled abroad for this. “I figured it all out, absolutely everything, but I kept going from one injury to the next. It’s not fun and you don’t become the best that way.
But Schippers knows what it feels like to be the best. Her accomplishments between 2015 and 2017 will last forever. Her wins over runners from the United States and Jamaica in two world championships makes her one of the greatest athletes in Dutch history.
Top of the world
As a teenager, she moved to Babendale as a great talent. In 2013 she won a bronze medal as a heptathlete at the World Championships. European titles in the 100 and 200 meters followed a year later, and as she got faster and faster, she finally chose the sprint. In 2015, she stunned the entire sports world with her phenomenal sprints at the World Championships in Beijing. At the Bird’s Nest, she ran to the gold medal in the 200 meters in a time of 21.63 seconds, a European record and the third fastest time in the world ever. The silver came in the 100 meters in 10.81 seconds.
And although she never reached those times again, she continued to act on top of the world. Her frustration after taking Olympic silver in the 200 meters in Rio de Janeiro was palpable. She came for the gold. In 2017, she became world champion in the 200 meters for the second time in London.
Then it got harder and harder. During her second Games in Tokyo, she did not reach the final of the 200 metres. However, the love for the sport remained and was evident this afternoon. “I’ve always kept in my mind the indescribable feeling you get when you run as fast as you can in a stadium with tens of thousands of people. It’s ridiculous.
She points to her arm with standing hair. “It still gives me goosebumps. If only he Wilhelmus Because you are the best in the world. This is so unique that I wanted to give everything for it. I just didn’t want to give that up. This says a lot about my personality, but unfortunately I am no longer able to fully experience it.”
You say goodbye without running a race. “I think you always end up with something negative in the beginning.”
It looks back from a bird’s eye view, including the coaching changes from Bart Bennema to Rana Ryder and back again. “With Rana, I trained a lot there,” she says, carefully marking the turning point in her career. “But even then I became exhausted. And even during those good years I had a long mental decline. It was my outlet, but after that I quickly became exhausted. It says something about me that I strive for the best of the best.”
What was her greatest strength was also her downfall. An intense desire to win, without mercy. “I think I did myself a real disservice. That I was too hard on myself. That’s unfortunate, I could have enjoyed it a little more. But that situation brought me a lot more, too. Because I don’t think I would have gotten to the top of the world if I had had a little bit more of that. I could Now I’m slowly starting to enjoy it.
She doesn’t have a specific plan for the future yet, but training definitely appeals to her. This could be in athletics, but it could also be on a mental level or simply to motivate more Dutch people to move. She will take her time with this choice. “Finally thinking back, I wasn’t good at it before. For example, I flew to Los Angeles for a photo shoot that also involved Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, even though I felt like I just arrived to watch. This is unreal stuff.”
There are so many amazing moments to reflect on. “Sometimes it’s too much to realize and it’s so wonderful. From 2015 to 2017, there were a lot of special moments and I notice that only now I realize it all. After that, the inputs did not decrease, but what I got in return decreased.” “It’s a shame, but I look at it positively. Everything happened so fast, sometimes I don’t remember what I did. My career has been a whirlwind.”
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