Heptathlon champ relieved by Tokyo postponement

FILE PHOTO - Athletics - World Athletics Championships - Doha 2019 - Women's Heptathlon 800 Metres - Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar - October 3, 2019 Belgium's Nafissatou Thiam in action REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel - UP1EFA31NO672

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Olympic heptathlon champion Nafi Thiam of Belgium says she is relieved that the Tokyo Games were put back by a year but disappointed too, after focusing for the last four years on defending her gold medal from Rio de Janeiro.

The 25-year-old told Belgian media she supported the postponement of the Games in the wake of the coronavirus health scare.

“It was good that we have now got an answer,” she told Wednesday’s Het Nieuwsblad newspaper. “It’s good the uncertainty is cleared up. But as an athlete I find it sad, because since 2016 all my focus has been on Tokyo 2020.

“As an athlete you dream of these sort of competitions. But it is a good decision and I have to accept it.”

Thiam’s clash with Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who beat her at the World Athletics Championship last October in Doha, would have been one of the Games’ hotly anticipated events.

Thiam struggled last year with an elbow injury but said she had recovered well: “My ambition has not disappeared now that the Games have moved back.”

She has continued training in Belgium through the coronavirus crisis, posting pictures on social media of home gymnasium workouts.

“And as an athlete I’m certainly not complaining about my situation. I can still train,” she said.

Thiam edged Jessica Ennis-Hill to take gold in 2016, and finished first at the 2017 World Championship in London.

Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Peter Graff