The double Olympic champion in the heptathlon explained that most of her previous trophies for the best Belgian athlete of the past year had been stolen. “I’m glad there’s another trophy because most of my Golden Spikes were stolen when my mum’s house was broken into. I think those burglars thought those trophies had real value. I I still have a free seat.”
That she was able to extend her Olympic title in Tokyo remains something special for Thiam. “I am very proud. The title of Olympic champion remains so special that it will never be completely assimilated, but it is starting to be and above all it motivates us to continue.” In the meantime, the multi-event champion talks about her goals for 2022. “More than a new title, I’m thinking of a total,” she says. “I would really like to set another best performance, and in this case break this European record.” With his 7,013 points, Thiam is still nineteen points from the European record held by Sweden’s Karolina Klüft (7,032).
The upcoming athletics summer will be very busy with the World Championships in Eugene in July (15-24) and the European Championships in Munich in August (15-21). “My goal is to do both, but you can’t hit peak form twice in three weeks,” says Thiam. “You have to make a choice, and I think the world championship is more important. I want to be in top form there. It is possible that I will do the long jump or the high jump in Munich, if I feel that my body is not ready for another heptathlon.”
Thiam also spoke about Noor Vidts, the newest pentathlon world champion. Will she be a competitor of choice in the years to come? “She already is. If you can expect anyone next summer, it will be her,” she concluded.
Noor Vidts, Silver Spike: ‘I realized I could do more than participate’
Eight days after his indoor pentathlon world title in Belgrade, Noor Vidts received the silver Spike on Saturday in Mechelen. She looked back with pride on the year 2021, in which she won silver at the European Indoor Championships in the pentathlon and finished fourth in the heptathlon at the Tokyo Games. “It’s been a great year,” Vidts said. “The year when I realized that I could do more than participate.” And it also allowed him to obtain the best result in his history at the Spike d’Or which rewards the best Belgian athletes of the past year “I have been on the long list several times, but I have never finished in the top three,” she said. “I’m glad that many people noticed that I had a great year.”
The past week has been busy for the new world champion. “There were a lot of parties,” Vidts said. “I ate a lot of desserts, but it was great. I enjoyed the media obligations. I was happy to celebrate with my friends and family, and to work a little for my studies the last two days. This must also be done.”
She won’t have much time to breathe. On Sunday, Vidts leaves for a three-week training camp in Cyprus. “The first week will be very quiet,” she explains. “Just keep moving. The next few weeks I’ll really start preparing for the summer season.”
Whether Vidts will aim for the world championships or the European championships this summer, and whether she will do a heptathlon before that, is still unclear. “I haven’t had time to make a schedule yet. It will be for the training camp,” she concluded.
Elise Vanderelst, Bronze Spike, “dreams of a medal at the Munich Euro”
Elise Vanderelst received the Bronze Spike on Saturday in Mechelen. La Montoise, European 1500m indoor champion in 2021 in Torun, said she dreamed of a medal at the European Athletics Championships next summer in Bavaria. “It was an improbable year, of which especially my European title remains in my memory,” said Vanderelst. “My Belgian records and my semi-final at the Olympics were good too, but if people talk to me about anything, it’s about that gold medal at the European Indoor Championships.” Next summer, she is aiming for both the world championships in Eugene and the European championships in Munich, but the latter take priority. “At the world championships I mainly want to gain experience at the highest level, while I go to the European championships to really perform,” she said. “There I want to finish at least in the top 5, because that’s the goal of my contract, but I dream of a medal in Munich.”
Vanderelst obtained, like Paulien Couckuyt, eighteen points in the Spike d’Or ranking, but she was more often at the top of the votes and therefore received the Spike de Bronze behind Nafi Thiam (Gold) and Noor Vidts (Silver). Couckuyt has similar ambitions next summer. “I have always had in mind that the European Championships are much more important to me than the World Championships,” said the national record holder in the 400m hurdles. “After my ninth place in Tokyo, I dream of a final in Eugene, but at the European Championships, I’m aiming even higher. Fighting for medals is the best thing. So I’m not going to hide that I secretly dreams of a place on the podium in Munich,” concluded Couckuyt.
Koen Naert, Men’s Silver Spike: ‘All about European Championships and no Worlds’
Koen Naert won the men’s Silver Spike on Saturday in Mechelen, the result of his tenth place finish in the Olympic marathon. He then said he would not be competing at the World Championships in Athletics in Eugene in August. “It was the best year of my career,” Naert said of 2021. “My 2018 European title experience couldn’t be topped, but my form was better than ever. I’m sure of that.” When he learned that he had received the Silver Spike, the Flandrien was rather delighted. “Yes! I’m really satisfied,” he said. “And now I’m here in my little sweater instead of in a suit. I didn’t think I’d end up this high.”
Naert will not run a spring marathon this year, and will not start the world championships in Eugene in August, although he has qualified. “If I hadn’t been the reigning Euro champion, the choice would have been difficult,” he said. “But, I absolutely want to defend my title, so I’m betting everything on the European championships and renouncing the world championships. In 2023, there is already another world championship in Budapest, so the choice was quickly made. “
Secretly, Naert just hopes to strike gold again in Munich. “The situation has changed. I will be looked at a lot more, but of course I want to do as well as in 2018. Working towards a big goal is what I do well and I want to show it again this year. It will depend also a bit of who will choose the world championships and who will choose the European championships”.