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Daley Thompson: Olympic Champion
by Clint Wayne
2008-07-30 08:59:22
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When British decathlete Daley Thompson showed up at his 1984 Los Angeles news conference following his Olympic gold winning performance he was wearing a T-shirt that posed the question “Is the World’s Second Greatest Athlete Gay?”

In that one classic moment before the world’s media Daley merely poking fun at a certain Carl Lewis was displaying his two dominant characteristics that had led to a love affair between him and his adoring British public. Firstly, he was indeed the ultimate self-confident ultra-competitive athlete and secondly he was the ‘cheeky chappy’ of track and field.

Of course at the time he had every right to claim to be the world’s greatest athlete having been the first athlete to simultaneously hold Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth titles in a single event and over a period of then eight years.

His rivalry with West German decathlete Jurgen Hingsen could have been reason enough to drive him forward as the pair consistently traded world records, but it was Daley who always took the winner's rostrum and gold in the major events remaining undefeated in all competitions for nine seasons.

Daley’s full competitiveness was revealed during the discus event in Los Angeles against Hingsen. Under immense pressure following two awful throws and a near lifetime best by Hingsen, Daley stepped up to the mark for his final throw and hurled it over 46 metres regaining the overall lead which he never relinquished. He remarked afterwards, “It was like I went to the cliff and looked over the edge”. In the euphoria following his triumph he also announced that “he’d like to have Princess Anne’s babies”.

Francis Morgan Thompson was born on this day in 1958. Called Adodele by his Nigerian father the name was soon shortened to ‘Dele’ and then by his friends to the now familiar Daley. Back in the 1980s he single-handedly transformed one of the least popular track and field events with his natural exuberance and flamboyance into one of the most colourful contests making each of the ten events a drama in itself and in doing so increased the events worldwide popularity.  Daley once described that being a decathlete “is like having ten girlfriends, you have to love them all and can’t afford losing one” and when he lost his decathlon world record he remarked “I took it like a man and only cried for ten hours”.

Daley was the natural showman, who the British public loved as he mischievously poked fun at ‘the establishment’ by first cheekily whistling the National Anthem after receiving his gold medal in Moscow in 1984 and then sending a triumphant message back home during his television interview beaming “I’ve got the big G boys, the big G”.

Daley also caused offence to the athletic hierarchy spurning the chance to carry the Union Jack at the opening ceremony of the 1982 Commonwealth Games claiming the lengthy ceremony would harm his chances of winning gold. Make no mistake though, Daley loved his country, but he loved to win more.

He was awarded an OBE in 1982 and also won the BBC Sports Personality the same year causing a storm by using an expletive during his acceptance speech. He was awarded a CBE in 2000.

Daley Thompson was the perfect all-round athlete with a combination of power, speed and agility. He was committed to being the best but with a magnetic personality always being relaxed in front of the demanding media. He made the toughest Olympic event of track and field look like fun and like all true champions he had talent and drive in abundance but he also possessed that indefinable winning combination of unbridled desire, ability and absolute dedication but always with that glint of mischief in his eye.

Click here to watch Daley Thompson's 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games Decathlon


   
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Asa2008-07-30 10:41:10
If only there were more like him today then perhaps I wouldn't be so cynical about the coming Olympics.

Happy birthday, Daley!


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