Daley Thompson

Daley Thompson 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.

Daley Thompson’s Decathalon highlights (Olympic Games 1984)

Read more about Daley Thompson here

Alex Higgins

Alex Higgins Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins, who died in July 24, 2010, aged 61, did as much as anyone to raise the popularity of snooker with his mercurial talent. Brilliant, if inconsistent, on the table, Higgins was a singularly graceless loser and frequently came into conflict with the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association because of his drunken, argumentitive, abusive, sometimes even violent, behaviour. Nevertheless, reflecting on his career at the time of his death, respected commentator Clive Everton said, ‘The public decides who its heroes are going to be, and Alex was one of them.’

Born in Belfast on March 18, 1949, started playing snooker, as a 12-year-old, in what he later referred to as the ‘dreaded’ Jam Pot, the billiard hall in the Donegall Road area of south Belfast. Just over a decade later, in 1972, he became, at the time, the youngest world champion ever, beating John Spencer 37-32 in the best-of-73 final at the Selly Park British Legion, Birmingham.

Higgins won the world championship again in 1982 and the penultimate frame of his semi-final against Jimmy White was one of the most memorable in the history of televised professional snooker. Trailing 14-15 and 0-59 in the best-of-31 match, with half a dozen reds remaining, Higgins produced a miraculous clearance of 69, despite running out of position time after time, to keep his hopes alive. Higgins swaggered back to his seat, raising a defiant index finger in the direction of the press box as he did so, and went on to win the match 16-15. Reflecting on footage of the penultimate frame, Jimmy White said, ‘I look like I’d been hit by a train.’

In the final, Higgins faced six-time world champion Ray Reardon. Higgins led 15-12, but Reardon drew level at 15-15, before Higgins produced some of his very best snooker, including a total clearance of 135 in the concluding frame, to win 18-15. The scenes of a tearful Higgins celebrating with his wife, Lynn, and his infant daughter, Lauren, helped changed the face of the game.

Alex Higgin’s unothodox shots

Read more about Alex Higgins here