Nafi Thiam relieved of injury concerns in the last straight line to the World Cup: "It has not been easy, but I am where I should be"

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“Tout va bien – everything is going well.” Followed by a smile. “That was a short answer, wasn’t it.” Nafi Thiam confidently enters the last straight line towards the World Athletics Championships in Eugene (15-24 July). The major concerns that there were about her serious back injury are gradually disappearing.

Maarten Delvaux

In the coming week, the two-time Olympic champion will test the body twice in her own country before heading to the United States to capture the world title she lost to Katarina Johnson-Thompson three years ago. This weekend she will participate in the long jump and the 100 meter hurdles at the Belgian Athletics Championships. Next Wednesday she will again run the hurdles in Liège, combined with the high jump.

In the high jump, 27-year-old Thiam surprised herself last Sunday by going over 1 meter 92 at the Diamond League of Paris in her first competition since Tokyo, equaling her performance at the Games. “That was a huge relief,” Thiam admitted on Wednesday. The signboard of the Belgian athletics had been struggling for months with a back injury and was especially afraid how that back would react to a high jump competition. “My preparation was severely disrupted by that injury and I barely had high jump training in my legs three times. My regular training track in Liège was being renovated and so I had to train in Sart-Tilman, where there was no high jump installation. So I had to make do. I didn’t have a specific performance in mind beforehand, but that I could jump over 1m92 was a big, very nice surprise. That has given me more confidence than I had hoped.”

At the Belgian Championships and in Liège, Thiam can test her back one last time. “Before I leave for America I wanted to have done at least two high jumps and long jumps in competition. That’s why those numbers are included this week. Combined twice with the hurdles because that combination is easy. The level of the hurdles is also high in Belgium. I need strong opponents to boost my own performance. Not every discipline is of the same high level at meetings in Belgium.”

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The Olympic champion has no specific objectives for the Belgian Championship and the meeting in Liège. “These matches are pure preparation for the World Cup. I don’t set my goals for a preparation. I’m mainly looking for a better feeling than I already had on those tests in recent weeks. There are still a few weeks left before I arrive in Eugene. I still have ten to fifteen days of preparation. The goal is to really see how I feel and get the last details in order.”

“Still nervous”

At 27, Nafi Thiam has seen and experienced everything in her career. “I am still a bit nervous for such a World Cup. It’s still a few weeks, so it’s going well for now. But if you spend a whole year working towards one goal, you’re always a little stressed when it gets closer. If not, I’d have a problem. That would be a bit blasé. But fortunately that is not the case. There is a certain nervousness, I see that as good stress. I need that to get motivated and to get excited about the event.”

Thiam admits that it is not always easy to keep recharging himself every season, especially not in a post-Olympic year. “I have to be there every summer. A year with the Olympics is followed by a year with a World Cup and a year later there is another European Championship. You never have a year to catch your breath. It’s not always easy to start over. Moreover, last year was a difficult year with many injuries. I hoped to be spared a little more this year, but unfortunately that turned out differently. It’s not easy to deal with that. But look, I’m still here. And I’m still having fun. I feel good and don’t ask too many questions physically and mentally. I am where I need to be and I am confident that I will get Eugene good results.”

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