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Daley Thompson on his way to winning gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Games

Irreverant, arrogant, supreme all-rounder, cheeky, moustache, world's greatest athlete.

Those are all words, used in this office, to describe two-time Olympic decathlon winner and legend of British sport, Daley Thompson.

No doubt you have your own words to describe the man who changed the face of his sport over the course of a decade with his exuberance, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on him, but love him, or loathe him, you cannot deny his impact and his ability.

Thompson first came to the public's attention as a teenager at the 1976 Montreal where he finished 18th.

By 1979 he was embarking on a nine-year unbeaten run that would see him become the first man to hold World, Olympic, Commonwealth and European titles at the same time, as well as being the world record holder.

His battles with German rival Jürgen Hingsen were legendary. Between May 1982 and August 1984, they bettered the world's best mark five times, but Thompson always had the upper hand in major competitions.

And he confirmed his status as one of Britain's finest Olympians in Los Angeles in 1984 where he broke the world record in defending the title he had won four years previously in Moscow.

Although whistling his way through the national anthem when he received his gold medal did not endear him to some, he always competed with a smile and - refreshingly - spoke his mind.

Thompson followed in the footsteps of American great Bob Mathias (1948 and '52) in winning successive Olympic decathlon titles.

He went for an unprecedented third title in Seoul in 1988, but finished just outside the medals in fourth after struggling with an injury.

Just about the only thing Thompson didn't achieve in his career was to break the 9,000-point mark. His best was the 8,847 he amassed in Los Angeles, which remains the British record.

In fact, only one man has ever scored over 9,000 points in the decathon - Roman Šebrle of the Czech Republic.

Šebrle achieved the feat in 2001, the year after he finished second at the Sydney Games. He returned to the Olympic stage in Athens and comfortably won gold, setting a new Olympic record of 8,893 in the process.

America's Bryan Clay seems the most well-equipped to challenge Šebrle in Beijing having set a new personal best of 8832 points at the 2008 US Olympic trials.

But will Šebrle join Daley and Mathias in decathlon's most exclusive club?

Peter Scrivener is a BBC Sport Journalist. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


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