With the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games now delayed for 12 months, Belgium’s Rio 2016 heptathlon champion Nafissatou Thiam isn’t now expected to compete in her gold medal winning event this year but has targeted continental glory in other events this summer.
"I can see myself participating in the high jump or the long jump at the Euros in Paris, much more than in the heptathlon,” Thiam told the Belgian sports website www.sport.be
At both events, she has medal potential in the French capital and could challenge the specialist jumpers like the reigning world champions Maria Lasitskene and Malaika Mihambo.
She can boast of a high jump best of 2.02m from the Talence heptathlon in June last year and holds the Belgian long jump record both outdoors and indoors with 6.86m and 6.79m, the latter mark coming in February just a few weeks before the coronavirus pandemic ended up erasing much of the immediate sporting calendar.
“For the rest of the summer, I really can't make any statements on my schedule. Will the Diamond League meetings take place and, if so, when?” added Thiam, who is also the reigning European heptathlon champion from Berlin 2018.
Thiam added the postponement of Tokyo 2020 could ultimately be to her advantage in her bid to become just the second woman to retain her Olympic multi-events crown, following in the footsteps of American legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who won back-to-back titles in 1988 and 1992.
The delay will allow Thiam additional time for her right elbow to continue healing following a series of injuries which have caused problems since the first damage occurred in June 2016, just a seven weeks before her competition in Rio, when she ripped two ligaments while throwing the javelin at that year’s Belgian championships.
"There is now even more time for this elbow. I have no more excuses not to go to Tokyo with a perfect javelin technique and throwing over 60 metres," commented Thiam.
Thiam’s current best in this event is 59.32m so that distance would add useful points and she could challenge the world best in a heptathlon, which stands at 60.60m to a certain Barbora Spotakova.
Like all elite athletes, Thiam is learning to adapt to the new, and strange, situation, regarding her training regime.
"I do my weights work at home, I had been able to train in the Louvain-la-Neuve athletics centre (30 kilometres southeast of Brussels, before the lockdown in Belgium which started on 18 March). It is not ideal, but it's okay. In my life daily, little changes: I train, I rest, and I read a little,”
Prior to the lockdown, but in anticipation of the Belgian government’s restriction on movement, she installed a temporary gym in her garage at her home in Liege so that she could continue some of her preparations for the summer.
The video of her training in the gym became an Instagram hit just over a week ago. “if I can't go to the gym, the gym will come to me,” joked one of Europe’s most popular athletes, who has over 138,000 followers on that particular social media portal.
On Tuesday she added to her photos with this caption.
“If we are going to be stuck at home for the coming weeks, why not make the best of it. Now that I have plentyyy of time to do all the things I never have time to do, most of my mornings are for paperwork, sending mails and working on my personal projects. Then I would usually read until lunch and train/stretch/exercise in the afternoon. Getting used to this new lifestyle tbh..”
Like the rest of Europe’s elite athletes, Thiam is trying to make the best of a difficult and challenging situation but she’s still clearly managed to retain her sense of humour and there could be a queue to her front door for cappucchinos once the pandemic has abated.