Thiam and Naert named Belgian Athletes of the Year

Nafissatou Thiam
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European heptathlon champion Nafissatou Thiam was named Belgian Athlete of the Year for the sixth season in succession

European champions Nafissatou Thiam and Koen Naert were named Belgian Athletes of the Year at the annual Spike d’Or ceremony in Stayen.

Thiam was awarded the accolade for the sixth year in succession with 123 votes ahead of European 400m hurdles fourth-placer Hanne Claes and sprint hurdler Eline Berings who returned to form after injury with a 12.72 clocking.

Thiam completed the full set of major heptathlon titles at the European Championships in Berlin, becoming just the third athlete to do so after Sweden’s Carolina Kluft and Great Britain’s Jessica Ennis-Hill.

Thiam also finished the season with the two best scores of the season - 6806 in Gotzis and 6816 in Berlin - but her coach Roger Lespagnard believes she can further improve now she has reduced her academic commitments.

“I expect she will do even better at the World Championships next year and at the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020. She has had quite a heavy academic workload in recent years but since then she has reduced it. If she trains more, the world record is not out of the question,” he said, quoted by sport.be.

On the men’s side, European marathon champion Naert garnered 117 votes to win ahead of fellow European medallists Bashir Abdi and Kevin Borlee.

Naert, whose next target is the Rotterdam Marathon next April when he hopes to secure the qualifying time for the Tokyo Olympics, succeeds discus thrower Philip Milanov as the recipient of the award.

World U20 400m champion Jonathan Sacoor and 20-year-old Elise Vanderelst, who improved her 1500m PB to 4:05.75 in 2018, were named youngsters of the year.