Daley Thompson's Competitive Focus


I watched a documentary on a plane from 2004 about a legendary 80s Decathlon rivalry. Les grands duels du sport heard plenty from both affable German Jürgen Hingsen and irreverent Brit Daley Thompson.

The German was thought the superior athlete, regularly holding the world record, yet never beat his tougher competitor.

Hingsen admitted to being intimated by the street fighting tactics he faced. Thompson divulged why he thought he continually triumphed.

Competitor v Performer

Thompson saw their separate approaches as staging ten sets of individual brilliance set against knowing your different abilities and managing them. The former plan of Hingsen suffered when head-to-head ion part because the order of the ten events happened to have Thompson’s strongest up front. This put mental pressure on Hingsen to ‘catch up’ that he was unused to handling.

In sales parlance, it seems you can indeed lose the technical evaluation yet still bring home the gold.

Coaching Involvement

One vital moment was described by Hingsen himself. He thought he had Thompson on the ropes as his seventh event the discus was falling apart. Hingsen amazingly recounts how Thompson deliberately changed his technique for the do or die throw and pulled a championship distance out the bag.

Thompson’s coach believed he was able to make such an important adjustment because he was critically involved in the process of improvement himself. His training regime wasn’t dictated to him.

A model sales (ops) management would do well to follow.

Killer Instinct

The 1984 Los Angeles tunnel exchange went down in Olympic folklore. Well in to the tournament, just about to walk into the arena, Hingsen motioned to greet Thompson. Daley instantly interrupted. ‘You’ve had so much time to speak to me, don’t even think you can start now’ was the gist. Then he followed up with ‘I was only going to beat you by a small amount, now I’m going to beat by a load’. Hingsen crumpled.

Switch On/Off

Thompson felt Hingsen was always concentrating. This created tension that restricted his performance. It was so hard to be permanently thinking about what you had to do that Thompson didn’t bother. Instead he found that he could ‘switch on’ in the moments before the starting gun. He stated that constant concentration removes nervous energy, ultimately making you lethargic.

Subscribe to Salespodder

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.