During the 1980s, Daley Thompson became a sporting superstar who entered the public consciousness. His rivalry with Jurgen Hingsen captivated a nation as Thompson went on to win the 1980 and 1984 decathlon Olympic titles (not to mention multiple European, World and Commonwealth titles).
For the past five years, Thompson charismatic presence has been felt in triathlon circles, having coached Jodie Swallow, attended the ITU Hyde Park races on behalf of the Laureus Foundation and now as a Human Race ambassador. 220’s Matt Baird spoke to Thompson at the Triathlon Show, where he was promoting Human Race’s new St. Lucia venture (pictured), about his involvement in multisport…
220: You’re involved with Human Race. How did that partnership come about?
DT: My involvement started because I’m a friend of John Lunt. I’ve known him for four or five years but I’ve no idea how we met. He won’t let me go now, anyway.
He does have fearsome calves.
Matt, you’re scaring me now! I’ve never looked at that man’s calves. I’d been working in St. Lucia, taking groups out there to do fitness work, and I came back and said to him, “This would be a great place for a fun triathlon.” It’s too hilly for fast times on the bike but, with the open water and the beaches, there’s enough for a week or ten days of fun and fitness. It’s in November, too, so works for a last race of the season event or for preparation for the following year.
When was your first experience of tri? Was it something you were aware of in the 1980s?
Not a huge deal until five years ago or so when I started to coach Jodie Swallow. And I learned a lot about triathlon from her experiences. She trains hard so I was helping her stay injury-free. I also coached some 2:05 Olympic-distance athletes, although I haven’t done a tri before so I’m not sure how!
Can we expect to see you do a duathlon or tri then?
Me? Not a chance! I don’t have any endurance muscle fibres. All of mine are completely sprint and power orientated. Anything after about a minute and I’m in trouble. I have no intentions of doing any of that stuff!
How does your coaching of triathletes now relate to your training back in your decathlon days?
Again, it’s completely different muscle sets as decathlon is all about speed and power, whereas tri is two hours. If you add up all the time it takes to do a decathlon it’s probably about 10 or 12-minutes spread over two days.
There must be transferable skills, though.
I think the key transferable skill is that, to be the best, you have to train. In order to be good, you have to be methodical. So there are similarities but it is a different thing.
You shot to superstardom in 1980 [after taking decathlon gold at the Moscow Olympics]. What advice would you give to Alistair Brownlee for dealing with the post-Olympic fame?
I don’t think he needs any help from me; he seems to have things under control.
Surely his life will have changed immeasurably since the summer?
Again, I don’t think he’s overexposed and he seems to be having his best time when he’s out training on his bike. Both Alistair and his management are doing really well and, as long as he doesn’t get injured, he and his brother will be the best and dominate for the next few years.
What about staying at the top? How do you stay hungry?
It’s about motivation. If you lose that you won’t be doing the hard yards like you used to.
But how do you keep the motivation when another four-year Olympic cycle begins?
I don’t think you have to think about it in four-year cycles. You need to think, ‘I want to be world champion this year’. Break it down. You’ll never know how you’re going to feel in four years’ time.
Daley Thompson is an ambassador for the Human Race Diamond and St Lucia Triathlons. To find out more go to www.humanrace.co.uk. We’ll be running part two on Friday where Daley talks about the Olympic legacy and his work with the Laureus Foundation.