Daley Thompson had the distinction of becoming just the second Olympic decathlete, after American Bob Mathias in 1948 and 1952, to win gold medals at two consecutive Summer Games. Born Francis Morgan Thompson in Notting Hill, London on July 30, 1958, Thompson was called Ayodele – subsequently shortened to ‘Dele’ and Anglicised to ‘Daley’ – by his Nigerian father. In 1974, at Crystal Palace, the 16-year-old Thompson attracted the attention of Newnham & Essex Beagles coach, Bob Mortimer, who directed his attention towards the decathlon.
Fast forward to July, 1980 and, having set his first world record, of 8,648 points, in Götzis, Austria two months earlier, Thompson, still a few days short of his twenty-second birthday, started worthy favourite to win the decathlon at the Olympic Stadium in Moscow. That he did, comfortably.
In 1982, he won gold at the European Athletics Championships in Athens, raising his own world record to 8,743 points in the process, and gold again at the inaugural IAAF World Championships in Helsinki in 1983. Thus, Thompson simultaneously held all the international decathlon titles. Indeed, he defended his Olympic title at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1984; his winning points total, of 8,797, was adjusted to 8,847 when new scoring tables were introduced in 1985, thereby giving him a world record that would stand for nine years.
An outgoing, gregarious indvidual, Thompson attracted public admiration not only for his athletic prowess, but also for his colourful, often irreverant, personality. However, his anti-establishment attitude was not universally appreciated; after winning his second Olympic gold medal in Los Angeles in 1984, for example, he cheekily whistled along to the national anthem and made ‘disrespectful’ remarks about Prince Anne, President of the British Olympic Association, at a subsequent press conference.