Sat | Aug 18, 2018

New female sprinters emerge

Published:Thursday | August 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Veronica Campbell-Brown (VCB), Allyson Felix, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Carmelita Jeter have monopolised women's sprinting for years. Between them, they've won every major 100 and 200-metre title on offer since 2007. Now there's evidence that their dominance will be tested.

The year, 2014 has seen Tori Bowie, Blessing Okagbare and now Dafne Schippers race on to centre stage.

Bowie, an American, blitzed an all-star 200 field in Eugene with a world-leading time of 22.18 seconds in May. Since then, she has raced without defeat at 100 metres, including a world lead of 10.80 seconds in Monaco.

Okagbare, the new Nigerian queen of sprints, stretched away to a crisp Commonwealth Games double in 10.85 and 22.25 seconds, respectively.

Last week, Schippers outran her continent's best at the European Championships. The Dutch woman evoked memories of 1948 Olympic heroine Fanny Blankers-Koen with a sprint double so distinguished that she too must be counted as a contender. Despite chilly weather and pesky headwinds, she won both the 100 and 200, with the latter coming in 22.03 seconds.

That's the fastest time in the world for both 2013 AND 2014.

Can go faster

The challengers are coming from other events. Okagbare and Bowie have won the United States' National Collegiate Athletics Association title, with the tall Nigerian winning an Olympic bronze medal in 2008. Schippers was third last year in the heptathlon at the World Championships.

Bowie hasn't long jumped in a while and Okagbare, second in 2013 at the Worlds, may have jumped her last as well.

Fans of the 200 should be especially happy because the new girls apparently can go faster. Bowie's 22.18 came in lane one at the Pre Classic. Moreover, the good times by Okagbare and the 23-year-old Schippers came in yucky conditions.

Only Felix, VCB and Kerron Stewart have broken the 22-second barrier since the start of the new millennium, but maybe the 200 is about to speed up again.

In an earlier age, fast 200-metre races were really fast. Merlene Ottey broke 22 in 17 races, including a still-standing World Indoor record of 21.87. Gwen Torrence did it 10 times and Irina Privalova has five sub-22 clockings. Valerie Brisco, Chandra Cheesborough, Pam Marshall, Juliet Cuthbert and Grace Jackson did it too.

Fraser-Pryce's sizzling 6.98-second 60-metre win at the World Indoors and her defeat of Okagbare in Doha this year suggest that she is the long-range favourite for next year's Beijing World Championships. By then, VCB, Jeter and Felix could all be sharp again.

Anything less, and they'll find it tough to hold off a tide of new sprinters on the rise.

Hubert Lawrence has been scrutinising athletics since 1980.