Dina Asher-Smith finishes just ahead of Dafne Schippers (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Hengelo, Netherlands

Sprints the focus for Schippers in Hengelo

All eyes at the AA Drink FBK Games will be on Dafne Schippers when she lines up for the 100m at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Hengelo on Sunday (24).

The triple European champion will at some point this year have to make the tough decision to choose between the sprints or the heptathlon.

In Hengelo, Schippers will face Britain’s world junior 100m champion Dina Asher-Smith, who beat her over 150m on the streets of Manchester two weeks ago. Also in the field is Germany’s Tatjana Lofomakanda Pinto, who ran a heavily wind-assisted 11.07 in Clermont in April. In the same heat, Schippers ran 10.90, her fastest time under any conditions.

Just six days after the FBK Games, Schippers will go to Gotzis for the famous IAAF Combined Events Challenge meeting where she will contest her first heptathlon since May 2014. Despite setting a Dutch record of 6545 last year, she decided to concentrate on the sprints at the European Championships.

After competing in Gotzis and then some IAAF Diamond League meetings where she will contest the sprints, Schippers will make up her mind about which events to enter at this year’s IAAF World Championships and the Olympic Games in Rio.

“Nobody can help me with this choice,” said Schippers, looking forward to the FBK Games in her own country. “Not even my coach. It’s just me who will have to decide. And I don’t want to wait too long, as thinking about it has already taken up a lot of energy, besides all the media and fans who are asking me about it.”

Pre-Gotzis test for the Eatons

Schippers isn’t the only combined events athlete who will be using the FBK Games as a stepping stone towards Gotzis. Decathlon world record-holder Ashton Eaton will compete in the 100m and long jump, while Theisen Eaton will line up in the 100m hurdles and long jump.

“I’m not in the position to choose between combined events and sprints, but I don’t see it as a problem,” said Eaton, who competed in the 400m hurdles in Hengelo last year, clocking 49.07.

“But my own choice would be the decathlon, because I like to be on the track as long as possible,” he added. “When I’m on the track, I look forward to the field events and vice versa. I think you should do what makes you happy and not what brings the most money.”

Eaton says he benefited from his experiences last year. “I practiced all the events. Nothing is lost and that’s why I dare to speak about improving my world record. Once you’ve jumped 8.00m, you know you can jump 8.01m too and that’s the same with the other events.

“And I’m stronger than I was, physically and mentally. Last year was good for me. The decathlon is a stressful discipline, because you do it two or three times a year and every time it is important.”

Eaton intentionally chose the 100m and long jump in Hengelo as they are the first two events of the decathlon and he wanted to get them right for Gotzis.

“I hope that I’ll be in the lead there after the 100m and the long jump,” he said. “For me it’s better to be hunted than to be the hunter myself.”

Theisen Eaton says she loves to be in the Netherlands. The couple is even thinking of moving to Holland in the future. “But now my focus is on the heptathlon,” said the Canadian record-holder. “I think Rio 2016 is the best opportunity for me to get an Olympic medal. What I will do afterwards I don’t know yet.”

In the 100m hurdles on Sunday she will face two of the women who will line up alongside her in Gotzis: world indoor champion Nadine Broersen and double world junior bronze medallist Nadine Visser. Among the specialists in the field is European indoor champion Alina Talay.

In the long jump, Theisen Eaton will take on Germany’s European indoor silver medallist Sosthene Moguenara.

Hassan and Kuijken target Dutch 1000m record

The women’s 1000m is another event in Hengelo that will have strong Dutch interest.

European 1500m champion Sifan Hassan and European 5000m bronze medallist Susan Kuijken are among the favourites. Both have already qualified for the 1500m at this year’s IAAF World Championships, so their main aim in Hengelo will be Ellen van Langen’s 2:35.21 national record.

The 1992 Olympic 800m champion is one of the organisers of the meeting and invited Britain’s 2011 European indoor champion Jenny Meadows, European bronze medallist Joanna Jozwik and world indoor silver medallist Angelika Cichocka to take on the top two Dutch middle-distance runners.

Diamond Race winner Fabiana Murer set a South American indoor pole vault record of 4.83m earlier this year, but Greece’s Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou is in good form and could challenge for the victory in Hengelo. She cleared a national record of 4.73m at the recent IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai.

National favourite Churandy Martina will have a busy afternoon in Hengelo, running both the 100m and 200m. At the shorter distance he will face Britain’s European 200m champion Adam Gemili, who will be making his season debut. Martina’s competitors in the 200m include Canada’s Aaron Brown, who clocked 20.30 earlier this month in Kingston.

Past Hengelo winners return

World youth 1500m champion Robert Biwott won the 800m in Hengelo last year and is back to defend his title. South African champion Andre Olivier, European indoor champion Marcin Lewandowski and European indoor bronze medallist Thijmen Kupers of the Netherlands are also in the field.

A world-leading time looks likely in the men’s 1500m. Kenya’s Nixon Chepseba, who in 2012 became just the second man to run faster than 3:30 in Hengelo, will face Ethiopia’s 2012 world indoor bronze medallist Mekonnen Gebremedhin and Morocco’s 3:31.94 man Zakaria Mazouzi.

Another man returning to Hengelo with good memories is Polish discus thrower Piotr Malachowski. Two years ago, he set a national record of 71.84m in the Dutch city and will be back there on Sunday, having won his first two competitions of 2015.

Cors van den Brink for the IAAF