On their marks for the gold rush
Up to May of last year, Daley Thompson was a sprinter and high jumper of modest achievement (10.8 seconds and 6ft 4in). In May this year, at the age of 17, he won the AAA decathlon championship with a record total. Next month he competes in the Montreal Olympic Games.
A student at Crawley College of Technology, he improved the UK all-comers record by 46 points to 7,685, which bettered the world age group total by 161 points and put Daley third in the all-time list of junior decathletes.
And perhaps more important than all this, he achieved the qualifying standard for the Olympic Games, which was his visa for Montreal.
Thompson is coached by Bruce Longden, whose wife, Sue, completed an all-rounders' double by winning the women's pentathlon and who is also going to the Games.
A great deal of application is needed to make progress in the decathlon, a demanding test of 10 running, jumping and throwing events. Daley trains twice a day at the new Crawley Sports Centre or at Crystal Palace, going to the latter most evenings - a six-hour outing, including travel.
Football, one of his big interests, has been abandoned for obvious reasons and apart from an occasional weekend at home in Kensington "painting the town red", his life, outside school hours, is dedicated to the decathlon.
Daley is preparing to take A levels in physics, biology and geography, but his intention to become a teacher has been weakened by the bleak outlook for the profession. He is not now certain if he will continue in education.
He is one of the 17 "academicians" in the 55-strong athletics teams for Montreal. Among them is the best-known teacher in Britain, Alan Pascoe, lecturer at Borough Road College, who has suffered cruelly from injury this season and may not get to Montreal as a competitor.
Last year, Pascoe carried all before him in the 400m hurdles; this season he has yet to race.