Athletics: Macey has spirit of Thompson

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DEAN MACEY'S pole snapped during the second day of his decathlon here yesterday, plunging him onto the landing bed in a tangle of his own limbs.

The incident was a reminder of the occasion during the 1988 Olympics when the same fate befell the man who still looms over this event for any aspiring Briton - Daley Thompson.

But it was the way in which Macey reacted to his fractured fortune, sailing over in his last attempt at 5.20 metres and going on to set a new personal best of 5.60 which convinced many that here was a young man who really, really believed he could surpass the levels of achievement reached by the former World and Olympic champion.

Following Thompson's retirement in 1992 two men have beaten the world record of 8,847 points he set in winning at the 1984 Olympics. But - until the arrival of this ebullient 21-year-old - a 6ft 5in, 151/2st bleach- blond Essex boy - no Briton has looked capable of competing at this level.

Having scored 8,347 points in May at an event in Arles - putting himself second on the all-time British list - Macey was clear about his ambitions for these World Championships: "I want to go out there and mix it with the big boys. I want to show a few people there's a new kid on the block." His attitude as much as his deeds in the two days of competition which concluded here last night have convinced more than a few people that Britain has a new edition of the People's Daley.

When he spoke lightly about how he took pleasure in winding his opponents up whenever he came across them outside the confines of the competition, there was another Thompsonian flashback. Daley delighted in psyching his opponents out. He would do anything to unsettle men whose physical proportions were far greater than his own. Then he would beat them.

Macey never entertained a serious hope of winning the world title here, given the presence of Thomas Dvorak of the Czech Republic, who raised the world record to 8,994 points earlier this year. But he ensured that Dvorak and co now know they have a serious new challenger, ending the competition nursing injuries to his hamstring, ankle and elbow. The latter problem caused him to pass on his final two javelin throws in the penultimate event, but by then he had already thrown a personal best of 64.03 metres, his fourth of the competition.

"I knew my elbow was going to go, so I was only going to be able to do one throw," Macey said. "If I had thrown crappy I would have had to run fast in the final 400 metres." Macey's attitude has already received a seal of approval from Thompson. "Dean is showing he's a great competitor, and it's all about competition," Thompson said.

Back home in Canvey Island, where Macey lives with his parents Alan and Patricia, there has been sleepless excitement. His parents had the choice of watching him at the European Under-23 championships in Gothenburg last month - where he fell out of contention after tumbling in the hurdles - or here. "We chose the wrong one," said Alan. "We couldn't sleep after his first day, because we kept getting visions of him lying on the track after the Gothenburg hurdles," Alan added. "It was brilliant when Dean said after the first day that his body was tingling and he felt like he had veins full of lemonade."

As a youngster, Macey played in the same youth side as West Ham's Frank Lampard. But he doesn't regret the choice he made. "I want to be the best decathlete in the world," he says.

"Footballers can't say that. Only decathletes can say that."