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Daley Thompson

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Background Information

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Daley Thompson
Daley Thomson 2007 Laureus day.jpg
Daley Thompson at the 2007 Laureus Day
Personal information
Nationality British
Born (1958-07-30) 30 July 1958
Notting Hill, London, United Kingdom
Sport Decathlon
Club Essex Beagles
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s) Decathlon 8,847 points
CBE ribbon

Francis Morgan Ayodélé "Daley" Thompson CBE (born 30 July 1958), is a former decathlete from the UK. He won the decathlon gold medal at the Olympic Games in 1980 and 1984, and broke the world record for the event four times.

With four world records, two Olympic gold medals, three Commonwealth titles, and wins in the World and European Championships, Thompson is considered by many to be one of the greatest decathletes of all time (along with Bob Mathias and Dan O'Brien). Robert Chalmers described him as "the greatest all-round athlete this country [United Kingdom] has ever produced."

Early life and education

Thompson was born in Notting Hill, London, the second son of a Nigerian father and Scottish mother. His father was a taxi driver who was shot dead in Streatham when Thompson was about twelve. At seven years old Thompson was sent to Farney Close Boarding School, Bolney, Sussex, which he described as "a place for troubled children". Thompson's name is a contraction of Ayodele, a Yoruba word meaning "joy comes home". Thompson's first ambition was to become a professional footballer, but he later switched his interests to athletics.


Early career

Initially, he was a member of Haywards Heath Harriers, but when he returned to London in 1975 he joined the Newham and Essex Beagles Athletics club, training as a sprinter. He began to be coached by Bob Mortimer, who suggested he try for decathlon. He competed in his first decathlon later that year in Cwmbran, Wales, which he won along with his next competition. In 1976 he won the AAA title and was 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 that year, but won the long jump at the UK Championships.

1980-1986-breaking records

Thompson 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 won the inaugural World 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 defence of his Olympic title, with Jürgen Hingsen, the West German who had succeeded 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 tying 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, equalled 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 – a world record that stood until 1992, when it was surpassed by the American athlete Dan O'Brien with a score of 8891. His two victories in the decathlon are a feat shared only with the American Bob Mathias. Thompson's 1984 performance is still the UK record.

1987-1990-defeat and injury

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 fourth 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.

Rivalry with Jürgen Hingsen

Thompson's rivalry with West German athlete Jürgen Hingsen was legendary in the sport throughout the 1980s. The pair consistently traded world records, but Thompson always had the upper hand in the major events, remaining undefeated in all competitions for nine years between 1979 and 1987.

After athletics

Thompson was forced to retire from athletics in 1992, due to a persistent hamstring injury. In the 1990s he played professional football for Mansfield Town and Stevenage Borough F.C. and Non-League football for Ilkeston F.C.. He also worked as fitness coach for Wimbledon F.C. and Luton Town football clubs. He also took part in motorsport, entering the Ford Credit Fiesta Challenge Championship in 1994.

Thompson worked as a fitness trainer and motivational speaker, as well as appearing at corporate events. He was also well known for his appearances in commercials for the drink Lucozade in the 1980s. Thompson's name was used for three officially licensed home computer games by Ocean Software in the 1980s: Daley Thompson's Decathlon, Daley Thompson's Supertest, and Daley Thompson's Olympic Challenge.

Thompson is an ambassador for the London 2012 Summer Olympics, focusing during the bid stage on highlighting the benefits that hosting the Olympics would bring to education and sport in schools. He also took part in the 2011 TV series Jamie's Dream School.

Public persona

Thompson was a natural showman who endeared himself to the British public with his irreverent personality, notably when he whistled the British national anthem God Save the Queen with studied insouciance after receiving his gold medal in 1984. Afterwards, he famously sent a message to friends back home via a TV interview, showing his medal and saying "I've got the Big G, boys - the Big G!"

Sometimes Thompson's behaviour caused offence, not least when he refused to carry the English flag at the opening ceremony of the 1982 Commonwealth Games, claiming that the effort required participating in the four-and-a-half hour ceremony would reduce his chances of winning his event. He won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award the same year. Making his acceptance speech during the live broadcast of the programme Thompson uttered an obscenity, which caused media comment. Despite this, he was awarded the MBE in 1982, the OBE in 1986, and the CBE in 2000. In 2012 he was accused of Anti-Irish racism after commenting on live BBC TV that the creator of a mis-spelled tattoo "must have been Irish". The tattoo artist was actually American.

Since 2004 Thompson has been involved in running his own Boot Camp company along with Kate Staples (Zodiac from Gladiators) and Nick Buckfield (Olympic Pole Vaulter). The company is based in Esher and has camps around the country. Thompson is also leading the company into running Athletics Academies in schools.

Personal life

Thompson has two children with his girlfriend Lisa, and three with ex-wife Trish.

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