Heptathlon spotlight on Thiam at World Championships

London (AFP) –


Nafi Thiam looks set to continue her meteoric rise when she seeks to add the world heptathlon title to her Olympic crown at the IAAF World Championships in London.

The Belgian, a geography student at Liege University, produced one of the shocks of the Rio Games when, despite competing with torn elbow ligaments, she trumped Britain's defending champion Jessica Ennis-Hill in the gruelling two-day, seven-discipline event.

"After Rio, everyone told me my life was going to change," Thiam told the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

"I was a bit scared because I didn't want my life to change. I'm a shy person, I don't really like to be in the spotlight. People look at me in the street, and sometimes I don't really feel comfortable.

"I really appreciate my privacy. My private life, my family, my boyfriend. People want to know, and I understand that, but it's something I really want to keep for me."

Ennis-Hill is absent this time around, now retired, and Thiam comes into the competition in top form and hot favourite.

Aged just 21, she is just one of four heptathletes to have broken the mythical 7,000-point barrier.

In May, Thiam took the Hypo-Meeting in Gotzis by storm, notching up 7,013pts to take her to third on the world all-time list.

Notably, in five of the seven disciplines, Thiam bettered her performance from Rio. Her national record throw of 59.32m in Gotzis has only been bettered within a heptathlon by javelin world record-holder Barbora Spotakova.

As ever with the heptathlon, Thiam cannot afford to take her eye off the ball.

Germany’s Carolin Schaefer and Latvia’s Laura Ikauniece-Admidina provided Thiam's toughest opposition at the Hypo-Meeting and will no doubt push for the podium in London.

Schaefer has set a number of personal bests this year, but will have to focus on the long jump having exited the 2015 World Championships heptathlon after three fouls.

World bronze medallist Ikauniece-Admidina is a strong second-day competitor, the 25-year-old having set PBs in four individual events this year.

Britain's Katarina Johnson-Thompson also produced a lifetime best in Gotzis, and will hope to capitalise on what promises to be some strong home support in the same stadium where Ennis-Hill won gold in the 2012 Olympics as part of that memorable 'Super Saturday' when Mo Farah and Chris Rutherford also won their events.

The presence of Dutchwoman Anouk Vetter, Germany’s Claudia Salman-Rath, and US duo Kendell Williams and Erica Bougard, promises a fierce fight for places.

Saturday's opening day sees heptathletes compete in the 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put and 200m, before tackling the long jump, javelin and 800m on Sunday.