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Nafissatou Thiam
Nafi Thiam Belgrade 2017.jpg
Personal information
Nationality Belgian
Born 19 August 1994 (1994-08-19) (age 27)
Brussels, Belgium
Height 1.84 m
Weight 69 kg
Sport
Country Belgium
Sport Athletics
Event(s) Heptathlon
Club RFCL
Coached by Roger Lespagnard
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s) Heptathlon: 7013 points (3rd all time)
Pentathlon: 4904 points (7th all time)

Nafissatou "Nafi" Thiam ( born 19 August 1994) is a Belgian athlete specializing in multi-event competition. As of February 2020, Thiam holds the Belgian record in women's heptathlon, women's javelin and women's long jump. She set a new world record for the high jump discipline within a women's heptathlon competition in 2019.

Thiam is two-time Olympic gold medalist, winning the heptathlon event at the 2016 and 2020 Summer Olympics. She is the only Belgian athlete, male or female, to successfully defend an Olympic title and only the second woman after Jackie Joyner-Kersee to win back-to-back Olympic titles in the event. She also won the gold medal at the 2017 World Championships and 2018 European Championships and the silver medal at the 2019 World Championships. She was voted IAAF World Athlete of the Year in 2017. She was a Belgian flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Junior career

Nafissatou Thiam was born in Brussels to a Belgian mother and Senegalese father. She started participating in athletics when she was seven years old, winning her first national age group titles in 2009, by which time she was already specializing in the heptathlon. Her favorite athlete at the time was Swedish heptathlete Carolina Klüft.

At the 2011 World Youth Championships in Athletics in Lille, France, Thiam finished fourth in the heptathlon with a total of 5366 points. Then, as a first-year junior, she finished 14th at the 2012 World Junior Championships in Athletics in the heptathlon with a total of 5384 points.

On 3 February 2013, Thiam broke the junior indoor world record in the pentathlon at a meeting in Ghent with a total of 4558 points, breaking her personal best in 4 of the 5 events. Carolina Klüft, who later became Olympic champion and triple world champion, had held the record since 2002 with 4535 points. In doing so Thiam became the first Belgian female athlete to break a world record. However, in March 2013, the record was not ratified due to a lack of anti-doping control on the day it was achieved. The testing took place the next day, which was beyond the deadline specified by the IAAF, athletics' international governing body.

On 18 July 2013, Thiam won the gold medal in the heptathlon at the European Junior Athletics Championships, achieving a new Belgian record of 6298 points.

Senior career

2014, she won the bronze medal at the European Championships in Heptathlon.

2015, she won the silver medal at the European Indoor Championships in Pentathlon and at the European U23 Championships in High Jump.

On 13 August 2016, Thiam won the gold medal in heptathlon at the Olympic Games in Rio with 6810 points, achieving personal best marks in five of the seven disciplines and defeating reigning Olympic and World Champion Jessica Ennis-Hill of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. She was the youngest Olympic heptathlon gold medalist in history. She was elected Belgian flag bearer at the Olympic closing ceremony.

On 3 March 2017, Thiam won the pentathlon at the 2017 European Indoor Championships in Belgrade with a total of 4870 points.

On 28 May 2017, Thiam won the heptathlon at the Hypo-Meeting in Götzis, Austria with a total of 7013 points, again achieving personal best scores in five of the seven disciplines, making her the fourth woman to score 7000 points or higher in competition. As of July 2017, Thiam is third on the all-time list behind Jackie Joyner-Kersee of USA and Carolina Klüft. Her 59.32m Javelin throw in the Hypo-Meeting heptathlon in Götzis broke the Belgian record for the women's individual event.

On 6 August 2017, Thiam went into the Athletics World Championships in London as hot favorite, winning the heptathlon world title and becoming the first Belgian to win a World Athletics Championships gold medal.

On 10 August 2018, she won the gold medal at the 2018 European Championships, becoming only the third woman to win Olympic Games, World and European Championships in heptathlon, after Carolina Klüft and Jessica Ennis-Hill.

On 27 June 2019, Thiam won the heptathlon competition at the 2019 Decastar in Talence, setting a women's heptathlon high jump world record of 2.02m.

On 2 October 2019, Thiam again went into the World Championships as world lead, and favourite for gold, but was expected to face stronger competition than in 2017 from erstwhile rival and 2018 European runner-up, Great Britain's Katarina Johnson-Thompson. In the event, Thiam succumbed to an elbow injury that hindered her javelin, while Johnson-Thompson recorded a huge personal best of 6981 points, a national record and the sixth highest competition score in history to win comfortably. Thiam's performance was still good enough for the silver medal.

On 5 March 2021, Thiam won the pentathlon at the 2021 European Indoor Championships in Torun with a total of 4904 points.

On 5 August 2021 she won her second gold medal at the Olympic Games.

Thiam is a member of RFCL Athlétisme, an athletics club operating under the aegis of the Technical and Sports Department of the Royal Football Club de Liège, and is coached by Belgian former decathlete Roger Lespagnard.

Besides being a professional athlete, Thiam studies geography at the University of Liège. "I like climatology, I like geomorphology – how the earth is shaped by rivers. A lot of subjects, like a heptathlon. Maybe that's why I love it." she says.

Thiam is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassdor for UNICEF Belgium.

Awards

In 2015, Thiam was elected Belgian sportswoman of the year.

In 2016, Thiam was named European Athletics Rising Star of the Year, IAAF Rising Star of the Year and Belgian Sportswoman of the Year.

In 2017, Thiam became IAAF Female World Athlete of the Year. Furthermore, she was among Forbes 30 under 30 for Europe and officially became UNICEF Ambassador. Again she won the award for Belgian Sportswoman of the Year.

Championship podiums

Olympic Games

  • 2016, heptathlon: outdoor, gold medal (6810 points)
  • 2020, heptathlon: outdoor, gold medal (6791 points)

World Championships

  • 2017, heptathlon: outdoor, gold medal (6784 points)
  • 2019, heptathlon: outdoor, silver medal (6677 points)

European Championships

  • 2018, heptathlon: outdoor, gold medal (6816 points)
  • 2021, pentathlon: indoor, gold medal (4904 points)
  • 2017, pentathlon: indoor, gold medal (4870 points)
  • 2015, pentathlon: indoor, silver medal (4696 points)
  • 2014, heptathlon: outdoor, bronze medal (6423 points)

Belgian National Championships

  • 2018, long jump: outdoor, gold medal (6m 60 cm)
  • 2016, pentathlon: indoor, gold medal (4678 points)
  • 2016, long jump: indoor, gold medal (6m 51 cm)
  • 2015, high jump: indoor, gold medal (1m 85 cm)
  • 2015, long jump: outdoor, gold medal (6m 40 cm)

Career achievement summary

2 x Olympic champion
1 x World champion
1 x European champion
1 x European Championships Bronze medallist
2 x European Indoor champion
1 x in Top 8 at World Indoor Championships
1 x European Indoor Championships Silver medallist
1 x European Junior champion
1 x in Top 8 at European Championships
1 x European U23 Championships Silver medallist
2 x Diamond League meeting winner
1 x in Top 8 at European Indoor Championships
1 x European Team Championships 1st League winner
2 x National champion
5 x National Indoor champion

Personal bests

Outdoor
Event Performance Points Venue Date
100 metres hurdles 13.34 s 1074 Austria Götzis, Austria 27 May 2017
High jump 2.02 m 1264 France Talence, France 22 June 2019
Shot put 15.41 m 888 France Talence, France 22 June 2019
200 metres 24.37 s 945 Belgium Tournai, Belgium 18 May 2019
Long jump 6.86 m (NR) 1125 United Kingdom Birmingham, Great Britain 18 August 2019
Javelin throw 59.32 m (NR) 1041 Austria Götzis, Austria 28 May 2017
800 metres 2:15.24 890 Austria Götzis, Austria 28 May 2017
Heptathlon 7013 pts (NR) PB Total 7227 Austria Götzis, Austria 28 May 2017
Indoor
Event Performance Points Venue Date
60 metres hurdles 8.23 s 1077 Serbia Belgrade, Serbia 3 March 2017
High jump 1.96 m 1184 Serbia Belgrade, Serbia 3 March 2017
Shot put 15.52 m 896 France Paris, France 9 February 2018
Long jump 6.79 m (NR) 1102 France Liévin, France 1 March 2020
800 metres 2:18.80 840 Poland Torun, Poland 5 March 2021
Pentathlon 4904 pts (NR) PB Total 5099 Poland Torun, Poland 5 March 2021
Heptathlon world record
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