Olympic Legend, Daley Thompson CBE shares his first-hand experience of the World Championships

In a guest blog for PLMR Daley, writes direct from Budapest.

I arrived in Budapest, Hungary at the weekend and I have been blown away by the changes to this City since I was last here in the 1980’s.  Back then there was still a palpable trace of the Iron Curtain hanging over Budapest in terms of architecture  and the overall atmosphere. I now find it changed beyond recognition, with a vast array of facilities available to visitors, world class cuisine and crucially, top top class athletics facilities for the athletes competing to be World Champions this week in a competition comparable only to the Olympics in its prestige.

The other remarkable feature for those competing here has been the temperatures. We have been hitting 35 degrees this week in Budapest, and it’s been so warm that sessions of the track have been postponed as it’s been deemed simply too hot for competition – and yet the opening day’s sessions were rained off.  It shows how as a competitor you have to be prepared for all weather extremes and to be able to execute your performance whatever is going on around you.  For the distance runners it’s particularly tough.  More water, staying out of the sun as much as possible, and conserving energy have all become particularly important in recent days.

A lot of journalists have been asking me this week how I feel about the state of UK athletics, asking me to reflect back on my own World Championship win in Helsinki 40 years ago. I am happy to say  – more happy than for ages in fact  – that our athletes have stepped up far beyond my expectations. Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Josh Kerr, the 4 x 400 mixed relay team, Matthew Hudson-Smith and Zharnel Hughes have done us proud. The whole British camp is buzzing and I will admit to being pleasantly surprised by the performance of the British Team so far.  I thought we would medal at these World Championships but the Golds so far in particular took many of us by surprise.  It’s simply brilliant for Team GB when members of the squad step up with personal bests at major championships.  It inspires those around them, both immediately, but also over the longer term. With these five medals already in the bag for GB as I write this Thursday morning, I cannot wait to see how the rest of the week unfolds for Team GB.

Whilst I am absolutely over the moon for the five medal successes so far, I am equally excited about the lift these performances give the whole team now and in the run up to the Paris Olympics next year.

The winner of my event the Decathlon is going to be fascinating because I see us going through a changing of the guard moment in this most arduous of events.  We have the established legends – Kevin Mayer bidding for a third World Championship, and Damian Warner who has Olympic Gold but has yet to win a World Title.   Pushing these two very hard are Pierce LePage and Leo Neugebauer.  Both have shown they can deliver at a very high level  – and I think Neugebauer in particular might deliver something big this week and over the next decade.  I look at the dedication and focus that these guys all bring to the Decathlon and it is reminder to me of my own  career and that you can only reach the top level when your life allows you to focus on your sport at the expense of everything else.

Whatever happens at the World Championships, I will say two last things about the big picture for our sport.

Firstly my great friend Lord Seb Coe has been very vocal about the need for athletics to follow other sports and embrace new ways of publicising the sport to the next generation. I totally agree with Seb on this.  He’s been advocating that athletes should welcome Netflix-style documentaries intruding behind the scenes to show how much goes into success. He’s totally right. The current crop of athletes have commercial opportunities and funding that would have been unimaginable when I was competing.  They should seize every single opportunity to open up their sacrifices and hard work to the public. It can only help.

Lastly I want to say how much I agree with Seb’s statement that we need more events outside of the Olympics and Worlds to boost the public appeal of athletics to more and younger audiences. I believe it was Logan Roy who said in Succession recently that “Everything everywhere is always moving. Forever”.

Athletics and athletes need to take note of that and make the moves and decisions needed to safeguard the future of the best sport in the world.

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