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Daley Thomson

Decathlon Olympic gold medallist

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Daley Thomson

Decathlon Olympic gold medallist


With four world records, two Olympic gold medals, three Commonwealth titles, and wins in the World and European Championships, Daley Thompson is often considered the greatest decathlete the world has ever seen.

Daley showed a remarkable aptitude for sport while at boarding school in Sussex. Initially he was a member of Haywards Health Harriers but when he returned to London in 1975 he joined the Essex Beagles club. Later that year he won the first two decathlon competitions he entered, while in 1976 he won the AAA title and was the 18th at the Montréal Olympic Games. The following year, he won the European Junior Title and in 1978 came the first of his three Commonwealth titles.
In 1979, he failed to finish in his only decathlon of the year but won the long jump at the UK Championships. He then opened the 1980 Olympic season with a world decathlon record of 8,648 points at Götzis, Austria, in May, and followed this with a comfortable win at the Moscow Olympics. After a quiet 1981 season he was in devastating form in 1982; back at Götzis in May, he raised the world record to 8,730 points and then in September, at the European Championships in Athens, he took the record up to 8,774 points. The following month in Brisbane, Thompson took his second Commonwealth title.

In 1983 Daley was crowned the all-round king at the inaugural World Athletics Championships and became the first decathlete to hold the European, World and Olympic titles simultaneously. He spent much of the summer of 1984 in California preparing for the defense of his Olympic title, with Jürgen Hingsen, the West German who had taken over from Thompson as the world record holder, expected to be a major threat. Thompson took the lead in the first event and was never headed throughout the competition, although it seemed that, by easing off in the 1,500 metres he had missed recapturing the world record by just one point. When the photo-finish pictures were examined, however, it was found that Thompson should have been credited with one more point in the 110 metres hurdles so he had in fact, equaled Hingsen's record. Then when the new scoring tables were introduced, Thompson became the sole record holder once more with a recalculated score of 8,847 points. His two victories in the decathlon are a feat shared only with the American Bob Mathias.
After his Olympic success, Thompson won his third Commonwealth title in 1986 but after that he never quite recaptured the superlative form of earlier years. In 1987 he suffered his first decathlon defeat for nine years when he finished ninth in the World Championships, and at his third Olympics in Seoul in 1988 he finished fourth. He made the Commonwealth Games team for the fourth time in 1990 but was forced to withdraw because of injury and retired when a recurring hamstring injury wrecked his attempt to qualify for the 1992 Olympic Games. After he left the track he embarked on a brief career as a footballer in the lower leagues of English football before becoming a fitness coach with professional clubs Wimbledon and Luton Town.
Later he became a motivational speaker and personal fitness coach as well as being an ambassador for the London Olympic bid.
Apart from his four world records and numerous victories in major championships, Daley Thompson set three world junior records and bettered the UK and Commonwealth record no less than ten times. As befits such a talented all-round athlete, Thompson produced some fine individual performances in the events which go to make up the decathlon; he was the AAA long jump champion in 1977 and was the lead-off man for the sprint relay team at the 1984 Olympics.

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