Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Laviai Nielsen: Five things to know about the top British 400m runner

From disappointment at the world championships to her London 2012 experience with twin sister Lina - we have all you need to get to know Laviai Nielsen.
By Ed Knowles

Laviai Nielsen is one of the big hopes for the Great Britain athletics team at the Olympics. She is 400m runner who ran a personal best time of 50.83s. Along with her team-mates, she came third in the 4x400m relay at the World Athletics Relays at the start of May.

Her twin sister, Lina Nielsen, is also an elite 400m hurdles athlete and the pair could be competing together for Team GB at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021.

Here are the top five things to know about Laviai Nielsen.

Laviai Nielsen competes in the 4x400m relay at Doha 2019
Picture by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Laviai Nielsen: Olympic pedigree from London 2012

Laviai and her sister were in the Olympic Stadium for the London Olympics in 2012.

Not as competitors, but as volunteers.

“My sister and I, we grew up around the area where the Olympics were being held, and we always talk about the stars aligning for us,” she told the Press Association.

They both vividly remember the electric atmosphere.

“I think you had to be 16-18 [to be a volunteer] and we had just turned 16 and we were in sport, we were in athletics, we were really passionate about it, so to stand in the Olympic Stadium, just behind Jessica Ennis, when the crowd was absolutely roaring for her and really gunning for her.

"It really kick-started our passion for it, and our career, and that's when we really started to take it seriously and to come full circle.

Laviai Nielsen: ‘My absolute hero is Serena Williams’

Despite her love of all things athletics, it’s in the tennis world where Laviai Nielsen found inspiration for her sporting career.

“My absolute hero is Serena Williams, I think she's such an incredible and powerful woman,” she said to Grazia.

“Not just on the court, but also in her personal life. She's the kind of woman that I envision to be.”

Within athletics, her heroes are little closer to home

“Jessica Ennis-Hillis is the perfect example of overcoming adversity. To miss out on the 2008 Olympics and then come back four years later, and win a gold medal on home turf, is such an incredible story.”

Laviai Nielsen: Learning from world championships set back

Laviai looked on course to having a memorable world championships back in 2019.

She ran a personal best time 50.83s in the lead up but only ended up making the semi finals at the event itself.

“I learned so many invaluable lessons from Doha,” she said.

“It was my first world championship as an individual athlete. It didn't work out exactly as I would have wanted it to but I came back knowing exactly what I needed to do in training and what I needed to work on. I evaluated my race and my mentality going into it and I learned so much that I was able to take forward into training.”

Lavaiai Nielsen at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Laviai Nielsen: Modelling career with sister

Laviai and her sister Lina are also signed to one of the biggest model agencies in the world.

Compared to the life of an elite athlete, being a model is an easier task.

"It is not particularly hard, running around a track in less than a minute is much harder," Laviai told the BBC.

Laviai Nielsen: Charity work

Away from the track, Nielsen is committed to helping others follow in her footsteps.

She has worked with the Right to Play organisation which looks to empower vulnerable children to overcome the effects of war, poverty, and disease around the world through play.

“Being an athlete, we’ve experienced first-hand the power that sport and play can have on personal development, character development and education.

“Having finished my degree in Geography, which took a focus on international development, I further understand that development is a multi-directional venture.

“We are excited to see what impact, however small or big, we can have on this important cause.”