Feature | Athletics

Nafi Thiam: Heptathlon queen, UNICEF Ambassador and fashion model 

It may be the athletics off-season, but Olympic heptathlon champion Nafissatou Thiam is keeping busy.

Nafissatou Thiam doesn't have any more competitions to attend this year.

But that's not to say the Belgian isn't staying busy, doing things that are normally difficult to fit into an athlete's schedule.

Every sportsperson has different ways to spend their newly-acquired free time. But few of them will have taken to the catwalk, or visited displaced children.

The Olympic, World, and European champion recently went on her first trip as a UNICEF Ambassador, travelling to Lebanon to spend time with refugees and local youngsters.

Education

Writing for the IAAF’s Spikes magazine, the 24-year-old heptathlete stressed the importance of education in relation to her role with UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund.

"It is a topic I feel very strongly about," she wrote.

"All of those Syrian refugee children going to school – they are the future of their country, they are building their country again."

Thiam added of her visit to Lebanon:

“I tried to share some of my experiences there via my social media, to help people get an idea of what UNICEF is doing out there and a lot of people were getting really interested in it.

“I think if people know about a project and know about a situation and learn more about it themselves, how they can play their own part, that should be the goal. The response was really positive. Yes, maybe just on a small scale, but I think it was a great step.”

On the catwalk

Thiam also found herself in France at Paris Fashion Week, where designer Virgil Abloh was showing off a new collection called "Track & Field".

She and a long line of fellow Olympians, including fellow heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Rio 4×100m relay champion English Gardner, and triple jump champion Caterine Ibarguen, had been invited to model the outfits for Abloh.

In keeping with the theme, the usual runway was modified to look like lanes on an athletics track, and even included a "scoreboard" and "race clock".

Thiam's big aim for 2019 will be defending her World title in Doha and building up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.