Series05 Sep 2016

First impressions – Nafissatou Thiam


Nafissatou Thiam in the heptathlon 200m at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 (© Getty Images)

Olympic heptathlon champion Nafissatou Thiam was one of the new stars of the sport to emerge at last month's Olympic Games.

Here, the 22-year-old Belgian reveals more about herself by answering our first impressions questions.

First coach

I started athletics aged seven and until I moved to Liege to be coached by my current coach, Roger Lespagnard, my first coach was Jules Plumier. He was really funny. It was cool to train with him. When I started the sport I didn’t have good technique, but as I grew up he taught me many good things about how to control my body.

First combined events competition

I did multi-event competitions from the age of about nine. I can’t remember my first competition but I recall we used to compete in four events: the 60m, high jump, shot put and 1000m. I also used to do cross country as a child and I was quite good, but I never liked to run long distances.

First competition outside of Belgium

That came at the 2011 IAAF World Youth Championships in Lille. In some ways competing in Lille was easy for me. It was just across the Belgian border, they spoke French and my family were also there to support me. I remember it was a lot of fun hanging out with teammates and meeting lots of new people. In other ways, the competition was very serious and I was really stressed. I finished fourth, which I was happy with and I was pleased that my Belgian teammate Marjolein Lindemans won the bronze.

First media interview

A local TV station came to interview me after a Brussels indoor competition. At the time I was still a child, so it was fun to see my face on TV along with that of my little brother.

First international medal

That came when I won the 2013 European junior heptathlon title in Rieti with a national record. Earlier that year, I had set a world U20 indoor pentathlon record, which was later removed (because of a lack of anti-doping control on the day) which made it a tough year. I was very sad to miss out on the world record and I needed something good to happen. I remember I was under a lot of stress in that competition and I thought I don’t want all my competitions to be like this.

First athletics disappointment

It was breaking that world (pentathlon) record (with 4558 points in Ghent) only for it then not to be ratified. I broke a record at the age of 18, which was amazing and then for that record to be taken away a few weeks later was really sad. For a few weeks I was lacking in motivation. Even today, I am sad about this.

First injury

It came in 2009, when I suffered a fall in the hurdles and injured my cruciate knee ligament. I don’t think I was able to run again for four to five months.

First pet

We had many pets growing up. We had a dog, which we took in from living on the streets, we had rabbits, and we even had a horse for a while when my mum competed in equestrian. Sadly, the horse died when I was aged about six.

First fashion disaster

When I was a child I was a bit of a tomboy, so I had many fashion disasters! I was always hanging out with my younger brother playing sport as a child.

First thing learned to cook

It was to take bread and dip them in eggs (what's often called French toast). It was not so complicated. I used to watch my brother and sister cook it. Sometimes, I still make this today but, although I like to eat, I am not so much of a cook.

First car

It was an Audi A1. Before I had cars I was not so interested in them, but because I am a curious girl and now I have one, I like to know as much as possible about cars. I am really excited by the car and one day I would love to drive a fast car on a race track.

First movie that made you cry

It has to be a Disney movie, so probably The Lion King when the father of Simba dies. It was really sad and emotional.

Steve Landells for the IAAF