Olympian Greats: Daley Thompson

On the day that Britain receives its first two gold medals of the London 2012 Olympics, we publish Chris Dossett's tribute to double-gold medallist Daley Thompson.

Daley Thompson, two-time Olympic decathlon gold medallist, was my schoolboy hero. He was able to dominate other athletes physically and mentally; he oozed charisma and was always able to bring out a big performance when it mattered. He trained twice on Christmas Day so he knew he had completed more training sessions than his rivals; his work ethic was incredible. As well as being an outstanding decathlete, he was good enough to represent Great Britain in the Pole Vault, Long Jump and 4 x 100m relay, he also played professional football and was a key member of London’s 2012 Olympic bid team.
The final event of the decathlon in the 1500m, in the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Thompson was assured of a gold medal and jogged round in just over 4.30 minutes; the image of the newly-crowned Olympic champion standing at the end of the race whilst mere mortals collapsed on the ground around him is iconic. During the next four years Thompson built up a healthy rivalry with the German decathlete Jurgen Hingsen. The German decided that he would not speak to his rival in the run-up to the Olympics and always appeared aloof in contrast to Thompson’s “uber” enthusiastic boy-next-door approach to life. After the first day’s competition of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Hingsen was behind and decided to start a conversation with Thompson at the start of the second day. Thompson’s reply was that he was going to beat Hingsen by a little bit but now he was going to destroy him --- and he did. He had a brief wobble in the discus with two poor throws and knew a third would erase all hopes of a medal. He entered the circle full of confidence and threw a new personal best with his final throw and went on to win the gold medal with a new world record total.
I have always admired Daley Thompson’s charisma and work ethic. To remain undefeated for over nine years in such a demanding event as the decathlon is truly extraordinary.

This article was originally published in Portsmouth Point magazine's Olympics edition.