Full Name: Francis Morgan Thompson
Date of Birth: 30 July 1958
Born: Notting Hill, London.
Club: Haywards Heath H, Newham & Essex Beagles.
Coach(s): Bob Mortimer, Frank Dick.
Daley As The Greatest?
When it ended for Daley Thompson, on a Friday morning in July 1992 as he bid to make the British team for the Olympics in Barcelona that summer, it did so in the most unreal of circumstances. A handful of people were watching in a specially-arranged event at Crystal Palace as the world’s greatest decathlete looked to make it to his sixth Games. His body would not let him reach the end of the 100m straight and he bowed out of the sport being carried off of the track. On reflection, it was probably the perfect way for Thompson to retire, after an heroic attempt to beat the odds. During an extraordinary 16-year career, he had delivered unparalleled competitive ability in the most of gruelling of track and field disciplines. His record speaks for itself: he was Olympic champion in 1980 and 1984, World champion in 1983, European champion in 1982 and 1986 and Commonwealth champion in 1978, 1982 and 1986 - the first athlete to hold all four major titles at the same time in the same event. He broke the world record on four occasions and won 19 decathlons in all, including 12 in succession from 1978 to 1987, and he brought to athletics a tale of the unexpected both on and off the track. In equal measures, Thompson could be sensational and embarrassing, breathtaking and controversial, and when he competed, he was unmissable.
Daley And The Headmaster
Thompson, born to a Nigerian father (from where his name Daley derives) and Scottish mother, went to a boarding school in Sussex from the age of seven, and when he was 14, he was introduced to his local athletics club, Haywards Heath Harriers, by his headmaster. It was the start of something special. He made an immediate impression, and the following summer he was fourth in the English Schools Intermediate 200m. Thompson returned to London on leaving school and joined Newham & Essex Beagles where, yet again, eye-catching performances were instant and it was not long before he was on top of the podium when he won the 60m gold at the AAA Junior Championships in 1975. He was only 16.
Having shown great talent for the varied aspects of athletics, Thompson took part in his first decathlon during the summer and by the end of the year he held the UK Junior record. He progressed at such a rate of knots that he made the British team for the Olympic Games in Montreal in 1976, which opened 13 days before his 18th birthday! And where did he finish in the competition? He was eighteenth, of course, with 7330 points as Bruce Jenner, of America, won gold with a world record of 8618. But Thompson had made quite a stand on such a stage being so young - and by the time of the next Olympics, it was about only one man.
Between 1976 and 1977, Thompson broke three world junior records and, in 1976, he achieved the first of 10 UK and Commonwealth records in 1976. In 1977, Thompson won gold at the European Junior Championships in Donetsk with 7647 and also he was fifth in the Long Jump before 12 months later, securing his first major senior title. At the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton in 1978, Thompson triumphed with 8467 before finishing second at the Europpean Championships in Prague with 8289 as Aleksandr Grebenyuk, of Russia, won gold with 8340. With every podium place, his strength and confidence was growing and on the weekend of May 17-18, 1980, the world knew just exactly who Daley Thompson was. The beauty of the setting of Gotzis, Austria, is one of the best in track and field and their annual multi-events competition has a glorious reputation. Thompson only enhanced that when he broke the decathlon world record with a score of 8648, but he held the title for less than a month before West German Guido Kratschmer took it to 8667. Kratschmer’s country was one of more than 50 to boycott the Olympic Games in Moscow that summer, preventing the decathlon from a glorious head-to-head between the best two in the world. Thompson arrived as an overwhelming favourite and he was not going to be denied.
Daley And The Olympics
Would Kratschmer have beaten Thompson in Moscow? Obviously we shall never know, except that the combination of the Briton in irresistible form alongside his ability to shine at major Championships was a cocktail which was hard to overcome. In the end, Thompson won gold with out too much pressure from the rest of the field. He was in brilliant form, breaking his personal bests during a decathlon for the Shot Put, with 15.18m, High Jump, with 2.08, and the 400m, when he ran 48.01 at the end of the first day to take control of a competition which he won with 8522 points. A challenge to the world record was never on when the Olympics awoke to a rain-hit second day, but Thompson was the champion, beating two Russians - Yuri Kutsenko, who was second with 8369 and Sergie Zhelanov, third with 8135. Boycott? Thompson was the Olympic champion and no-one could take that honour away from him. But the by the time he came to defend his title, another West German had emerged onto the scene and their rivalry became immense. In May 1982, Thompson stretched the world record to 8704 but by the August, Hingsen had taken it to 8723, setting up a great duel for the European Championships in Athens in the following month. Thompson was supreme and he regained the world record from Hingsen by winning gold in 8743 with the West German second in 8518 ahead of Siegfried Stark, third with 8433.
Thompson had also retained his Commonwealth title in Brisbane in this year and 12 months on, the first World Championships in Helsinki brought the pair together again. Amazingly, Hingsen was the world record-holder once more and yet again, history repeated itself because Thompson took the gold medal. He triumphed in 8666, from Hingen in 8561, with fellow West German Siegfried Wentz third in 8478 and the countdown began to what became their greatest duel at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984. It was there that Thompson was, eventually, utterly supreme, with the competition’s key being the discus, the seventh discipline, where the Briton was not having the best of events. But then he threw 46.56m to narrow the gap on his rival. He moved into the lead during the vault and javelin before slowing down near the finish of the 1500m, which meant he did not break the world record. Thompson won with 8797 followed in a repeat of Helsinki with Hingsen second with 8673 and Wentz third with 8412. But there were still a few more twists to this part of the Thompson story. In October, Hingsen took the world record to 8798, but then a change of the rules in 1985 saw a most bizarre chain of events. Not only did the IAAF change the points scoring system, but on a new investigation had found that the clock in 1984 had mistimed Thompson’s 110m hurdles time. It was revised from 14.34 to 14.33, the additional point giving him a share of the old world record with Hingsen on 8798 - but then on the new conversions, somehow it meant that Thompson held the world record outright with 8847. It was a world record which stood for nine years and an Olympic record that remained until Athens in 2004 when Roman Sebrle, of the Czech Republic, won gold with 8893. A back injury marred Thompson’s defence of his world title when he finished only ninth in Rome before missing out on a medal at the Olympic Games in Seoul when he was fourth. After an operation to remove a bone growth in his left knee in September 1989 and further injuries, he was unable to achieve his goal of a fifth Olympics in 1992 on that day at Crystal Palace and he announced his retirement.
Daley And Controversy
Thompson was never far from controversy during his amazing career - and he rarely spoke to the media. At the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane in 1982, he refused to carry the flag for England at the opening ceremony because he said the long occasion would affect his gold medal preparations. Yet, his success of winning double gold in 1982 led to him being named as the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year and when he received his award, he swore! After his glory in LA, he whistled while the national anthem played after he received his medal and also he caused a major stir by saying he would like to have ‘babies’ with Princess Anne. Yet, he was awarded the MBE in 1982, CBE in 2000, he moved into football where he had trials with Reading in the 1990s, while working as a television pundit and in 2005, he played a key ambassadorial role in helping London win the 2012 Olympics.
1976: 18th Dec Olympics
1977: 1st Dec, 5th LJ European Juniors
1978: 1st Dec Commonwealth Games, 2nd Dec Europeans
1980: 1st Dec Olympics
1982: 1st Dec Commonwealth Games, 1st Dec Europeans
1983: 1st Dec Worlds
1984: 1st Dec Olympics
1986: 1st Dec, 6th PV, 2nd 4x100m Commonwealth Games; 1st Dec, 3rd 4x100m Europeans
1987: 9th Dec Worlds
1988: 4th Dec Olympics
UK Internationals: 28 (1975-88)
Won UK long jump 1979, AAA decathlon 1976 and LJ 1977, U20 decathlon 1975
Decathlon 8847 (1984) 100m 10.26 (1986), 200m 20.88 (1979), 400m 46.86 (1982), 1500m 4:20.3 (1976), 110mh 14.04 (1986), 400mh 52.14 (1986), high jump 2.11 (1980); pole vault 5.25m (1986), long jump 8.01 (1984), 8.11w (1978); shot 16.10 (1984), discus 49.10m (1986), javelin 65.38 (1980), new specification 64.04 (1988).
Indoors: 60m 6.84 (1988), 200m 21.96 (1988), 300m 34.16 (1987), 55mh 7.48 (1984), 60mh 8.04 (1987), HJ 2.14 (1982), PV 5.10 (1987), LJ 7.72 (1982)
Records: Four world decathlon records (8648 in 1980, 8730 and 8774 in 1982, 8847 in 1984), three world junior records 1976-7, ten UK and Commonwealth records 1976-84.