Olympic Stories

Daley Thompson - Winning the decathlon

Daley Thompson - Winning the decathlonWinning the decathlon at the Olympic Games is often considered synonymous with conferring the coveted title of ‘World's Greatest Athlete’ on a person; and winning this title more than once has caused many to regard Daley Thomson to be the world’s greatest all-rounder in the field of athletics.

Former English decathlete Daley Thompson’s claim to fame was the consecutive gold medals he won at the 1980 and 1984 Olympic Games and the world record that he broke for the event four times.

Francis Morgan Thompson (popularly known as Daley Thompson) was born on 30 July, 1958 in Notting Hill in London, England to a Scottish mother - Nigerian father couple. He was named Adodele - ‘Dele’ for short, an African name, which later became ‘Daley’ thanks to his friends christening him so. His athletic career began while he was at boarding school, where his talent as an all-rounder was noticed and he competed in his first decathlon at the age of 16 years.

He first competed in the decathlon in 1976 at Olympics in Montreal when he was just 18 years old. This was after he won the AAA title and qualified for the Olympics, but here he only finished 18th. However, the next year, Daley won the European Junior title, defeating arch-rival Jurgen Hingsen.

His first major international win came by in 1978 at the Commonwealth Games held at Edmonton, Canada. He however, lost the European Championships held in Prague to Aleksandr Grebenyuk from Russia. This was the last time he was defeated until 1987.In 1980 he won the Olympic title and also broke the world record at Moscow.

He spent the year 1982 training in San Diego and London. Daley went on to break two more world records, of which one was accomplished at Athens where he won the European Championship for his event. Despite serious groin and back injuries, Daley won the initial World Championships in Helsinki. By 1983, his biggest rival Hingsen had grown better and was considered a possible obstacle between Daley and victory; Daley however, chose to slight these apprehensions.

During this event held at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, he however did come very close to his worst dreams, when he found himself falter at the Discuss throw event. However, sheer will-power and concentration saw him through and helped him perform exceedingly well at the Pole Vault and Javelin events. There unfortunately was to be a photo-timer error as a result of which he was given his belated share of the world record two years later. He then emerged victor, defeating Hingsen, again breaking a world record. In the year 1986, the Commonwealth and European titles found its way to him, the European title being special because of its victory over Hingsen again.

Daley tied the knot with Tish in 1987. This year, his performance at the World Championships held at Rome was hampered because of an injury, and he lost to Torsten Voss belonging to the GDR; this was to be his first defeat in nine seasons. The next year, again debilitated by another injury and distracted with the arrival of his daughter, he missed the bronze medal by a whisker at the Seoul Olympic Games. This time, it was Christian Schenk from East Germany that replaced him as Olympic Champion.

While he was generally a gentle soul, his fierce competitive ability on the track was considered single-minded by many. He is also not a particular favorite among press reporters owing to his tendency to blatantly refuse interviews. He was always open in accepting that winning was his only goal in life and nothing else really mattered much to him.

In the year 1982 Daley was awarded the esteemed Member of the Order of the British Empire and was voted BBC television’s Sports Personality of the Year. A hamstring injury forced him to retire from active track and field competitions in 1992. During this phase, he played professional football for Mansfield Town and also worked as a coach for Wimbledon and Luton Town football clubs. In the year 2000, he was decorated with the prestigious Commander of the British Empire title.

He went on to set up his own fitness firm in 2004, called Daley Fitness which offers a variety of fitness training packages. He now has four children – Elliot, Austin and Rachel from his first wife Tish and Alex from his current partner Lisa. He is also currently into making appearances at many corporate functions, where people look forward to being enthralled by his oratory skills.

Career Highlights
  • 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games – Gold
  • 1980 Moscow Olympic Games – Gold
  • 1983 World Championships – Gold
  • 1986 European Championsihps – Gold, Bronze

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