Nafissatou Thiam, the undisputed queen of heptathlon
Barely 23 years old (she was born on 19 August 1994), Nafissatou Thiam is consistently smashing sports records. In 2016, this Belgian athlete, a specialist in combined events, won the supreme heptathlon title at the Rio Olympic Games before becoming the World Champion in the discipline in London the following year. This makes her the first Belgian athlete ever to win the world title. And this is just the beginning!
Far from going to her head, Nafissatou savours her success with great humility, which makes her fellow citizens like her even more. Originally from Namur, where she completed her secondary education, "Nafi" as those close to her call her, moved to Liege to pursue her training at RFC Athlétisme... whilst also studying geographic science, a subject that she "enjoys for the diversity of topics covered", at the University of Liege.
It was at the World Youth Championships in Lille that Nafissatou moved into the spotlight when she took 4th place in the heptathlon with 5,366 points. In 2012, she took part in the Junior World Championships in Barcelona, where she came 14th place in the heptathlon with 5,384 points, just behind her compatriot Marjolein Lindemans.
On 3 February 2013, at the Belgian combined events championships in Ghent, our rising star set a new junior world record in pentathlon with 4,558 points after the five events. Thanks to this performance, in March 2013, she was invited to the European indoor championships in Göteborg, where she came 6th, equalling her best performance in the high jump. Since then, she has excelled and has broken a series of records, in particular in 2013: the European Junior Championships in Rieti, where she won gold and beat the Belgian heptathlon record held by Tia Hellebaut (6,201 points), the Belgian record for all heptathlon categories, and the junior world title for heptathlon. From 2014, she collected European medals: bronze medal at the European Championships in Zurich, silver medal for pentathlon at the European Indoor Championships in Prague, silver medal for high jump (1.87 m) at the European Athletics U23 Championships in Talinn, etc.
It was on 22 May 2016 in Namur that Nafissatou qualified for the Rio Olympics Games in high jump with a 1.94 m jump. In Rio, she dazzled the Belgian pubic with an exceptional performance, smashing five of her personal records in heptathlon events and taking gold as a reward! The Belgian athlete obtained a total of 6,810 points, thus improving her personal record by 300 points. Nothing seems to stop her now...
In 2017, she set a new Belgian record and became the fourth female athlete to exceed the 7,000 points bar and the third best female heptathlon athlete ever in the world. On 5 August, she took part in the World Championships in London and completed the 100 metres hurdles in 13:54 seconds before setting a new world record in heptathlon high jump with 1.95 m. She was crowned World Champion the following day, at the same time treating Belgium to its first title in the World Championships. Nafissatou ended the year with the title of world athlete of the year. It makes you wonder what the future holds for her...
Photo: © Wikipedia / Erik van Leeuwen