Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt interacts with the crowd after winning the men's 100 metres event during the London Anniversary Games International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Diamond League meet at the Olympic Stadium last year. - AFP
KUALA LUMPUR: The world needs more electrifying athletes like sprinter Usain Bolt to keep people interested.
That’s Briton Daley Thompson’s take on the current state of world sports.
“For me, it’s easy. I like to watch Bolt. He looks like he’s really enjoying himself out there. And there are not many like him in athletics now,” lamented Thompson, who is in town for the Laureus World Sports Awards at the Istana Budaya on Wednesday.
Easily regarded as one of the best decathletes of all time, Thompson’s illustrious 15-year career saw him claim back-to-back Olympic golds in 1980 (Moscow) and 1984 (Los Angeles) and three straight Commonwealth Games golds (1978, 1982, 1986).
He also won gold at the 1983 World Championships in Helsinki and at the 1982 and 1986 European Championships. And on top of that managed to break the world record four times between 1980-1984.
Like Bolt, the 1.83m tall Thompson was able to endear himself to fans all over the world with his larger-than-life character. At the height of his career, Thompson was a darling on the track with many fans turning up at stadiums to watch him in action.
Sadly, that’s not the case now with fans shunning the stadiums.
“I just watch them on TV now, but there are a few top performers who are engaging that you want to watch them live in action. It was like that for me in my career. You would be saying: ‘Oh, I hate that guy, I want to see him lose this time’. And so they want to see you live in action at the stadium.
“These days, you don’t get that kind of feeling. You have great performers, but they just don’t seem to be very engaging,” said the 55-year-old.
Since his retirement in 1990, decathlon has dropped off the fans’ radar. In fact, Thompson is still the British record holder with his 8,847 total in the 10-discipline event.
“To be honest, I would love to see somebody break my 20-year-old record. But it doesn’t seem to have moved on very much,” said Thompson.
“These days, kids go on the PlayStation and they can be the world rally champion in half an hour. It’s much more instant. In athletics, you take years to master an event. And I don’t think athletes are willing to wait that long, particularly in decathlon ... it takes ages to learn all the 10 events and people don’t want to spend that amount of time,” said Thompson.
“I was always trying to win. Because winning is the most important thing, because you want to be Olympic champion,” said Thompson emphatically.
“It’ll be nice to break the world record, but it’s much more important to be the Olympic champion ‘cause you’ll always get another day to be the world record holder... but you’ve got to wait four years to be Olympic champion,” explained the 55-year-old.