With Bolt out, Schippers and Felix are top draw at Van Damme
Sep. 10, 2015
BRUSSELS (AP) — Despite Usain Bolt's late withdrawal, the Diamond League meet still has a great sprint matchup on Friday.
World champions Dafne Schippers and Allyson Felix will meet at the Van Damme Memorial to see who is faster over their favorite distance — 200 meters.
Because of a scheduling clash at the world championships two weeks ago, Felix skipped the 200 and won the 400 instead, leaving newcomer Schippers to claim the title over the shorter distance.
On Friday, their race could be a sneak preview of next year's Olympic final in Rio de Janeiro.
"This was definitely on my schedule even before the worlds," Felix said of Friday's race. "It is great to be able to come back to the 200 and finish off my season in my favorite event."
A few months ago, it would have been hard to imagine Felix would line up against a world champion from the Netherlands, but Schippers' success and speed in switching from the heptathlon to the sprints has taken just about everybody by surprise.
"It's a crazy world now," Schippers said reflecting on her return from Beijing, where she also took silver in the 100.
Felix, the Olympic champion, was on the sidelines in Beijing as Schippers ran the 200 in the fourth-fastest time in history — 21.63 seconds, .06 seconds faster than the American has ever run. So far, their head-to-head stands at 2-2.
"We line up against each other quite often," Felix said. "We enjoy racing each other."
The contrast compared with the top male sprinters could not be starker.
Bolt and Justin Gatlin, who entered the worlds with a two-season winning streak, had not faced each other since 2013 before Bolt won both sprints in Beijing.
After helping Jamaica win the 4x100 relay to make it another triple of world championship golds, Bolt called an end to his season this week. So, all eyes will be on Gatlin, who will seek a 100-200 double in barely one hour on Friday.
Gatlin won both last year, and will be going against 400 world champion Wayde van Niekerk in the 200.
After ending with two silver medals behind Bolt, Gatlin went home and feels refreshed for the challenge. He said the losses no longer trouble him. "You cannot dwell on races that are behind you," he said.