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Q&A with Nafi Thiam

Benchmark: Thiam has the European record of Kluft (pictured bottom) in her sights PICTURE: ALAMY

Belgium’s World, Olympic and European heptathlon champion goes head-to-head with British rival Katarina Johnson-Thompson in the long jump at the Birmingham Grand Prix on Saturday

Are you looking forward to this weekend in Birmingham?

Definitely — I’m very excited about it. I’ve never competed in Birmingham before and have only ever competed once in the UK, at the world championships two years ago. That’s all. But I know there are a lot of track- and-field fans in London, so maybe I’ll look to compete there again one day.

How’s your 2019 been so far?

Six days into the year, I injured my calf and that was hard because I had trained hard all over the winter and I was feeling incredibly good. Then, I got back into competition in June and set three personal bests in different disciplines — I was quite surprised — before an elbow problem in the javelin.

What is your rivalry with Katarina like?

It’s good to have somebody pushing you — that’s what happened in Berlin (at last year’s European Championships). She was doing really good on the first day and that motivated me. But it’s not just Kat, there are four or five girls around the 6,800 mark and that is huge. This is a real generation of good heptathletes and it will make the coming years very interesting.

Best of rivals: Champion Thiam and runner-up Johnson-Thompson (left) at last year’s European Championships PICTURE: GETTY

Do you all get on in multi-eventing?

In heptathlon, generally there is a good atmosphere and all the girls respect each other. They are pretty much the same girls since I went into heptathlon in 2013 and every year we see a lot of each other, especially as most of the girls are European.

Are you looking forward to the world championships and next year’s Olympics in Japan?

I don’t know how far I can go. I always have the same mindset, to keep pushing and evolving. I give my best in training and hope to push my performances a bit further. Now there are two super-important years, with Doha and Tokyo, and I’m thinking about that. Despite all the problems I’ve had this year, I’m feeling good.

Do you ever stop and reflect on an amazing three years?

Sometimes when I think about it, especially Rio, it seems so crazy. It all went so fast. I’ve never really been someone who’s very confident — I thought I could evolve as an athlete but I never thought about being world or Olympic champion. Even after Rio I wasn’t so confident and wondered if it would be the peak of my career.

Do you believe in yourself more now?

A lot has happened to me in the last three years and I have really evolved in my head and that was so important to me.

What are your long-term aims?

I’ve always been focused on the points total and while it is evolving, I still feel I am far from my full potential. My goal is to pass 7,000 points again and get the European record (the 7,032 set by Swedish great Carolina Kluft — pictured — in 2007).

Do you feel indestructible now?

No, it would be a mistake to think like that. I don’t think I’m unbeatable but my goal is to be the hardest possible person to beat.

■ 7,013 — Personal best total in the heptathlon for Thiam, exactly 200 points more than the PB set by Johnson-Thompson earlier this year

Tickets for the Muller Grand Prix Birmingham on August 18 are on sale at theticketfactory.com/british-athletics