Athletics: Thompson heads home for final throw: Mike Rowbottom watches as the holder of the decathlon world record struggles to take part in a fifth Olympic Games

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The Independent Online
DALEY THOMPSON, still clinging to the hope of competing in his fifth Olympic Games, has been offered the chance to compete at Crystal Palace on Thursday and Friday in what would be his first ever decathlon in England. If he is unable to obtain the Olympic qualifying mark of 7,850 points, before the 10 July deadline, it will also be his last.

The 33-year-old world record- holder, who called off his attempt to gain the standard in the chill surrounds of Trondheim, Norway, over the weekend after struggling through four events, may yet find himself the centre of attention once again, particularly as his second day will coincide with the Crystal Palace grand prix meeting.

The opportunity has been set up by Thompson's adviser, Frank Dick, national director of coaching, who met Southern Counties officials during yesterday's meeting at Haringey. 'Now it's all down to Daley to decide whether he wants to go through with it,' Dick said last night. 'He arrives home from Norway tomorrow, and he'll make his final decision then.'

Thompson indicated on Saturday that he was looking for somewhere warmer, perhaps in Spain, to have one last go at taking advantage of the leeway which Britain's selectors have offered him.

So will this mean Thompson's first decathlon in England in nearly 20 years in senior competition? 'Yes, that's what it looks like at the moment,' Dick said. 'My feeling now is that to have to do another day's travelling, carting poles around, getting used to new food - it would be much better to do a decathlon at home. But only Daley can decide whether he wants to do that.'

There are clearly logistical problems involved, such as getting an official permit and arranging for officials and athletes to congregate. Dick expressed confidence that people would rally round. 'I don't know many people who wouldn't like to see Daley go to Barcelona as a fully qualified competitor.'

Even if Thompson does have a last hurrah, however, it is questionable how much cheer it will bring him. His performance in Trondheim, admittedly his first competition since his Olympic preparations were thrown awry by a shoulder injury on 21 May, was discouraging, even though he came through without aggravating the damage. A total of 2,973 points after four events constituted his worst start to a decathlon since he was 17, and the fact that two of them - the 100 metres and long jump - have traditionally been among his strongest made his position even more desperate.

But in a football stadium bereft of atmosphere - in the winter, crowds of 20,000 turn up regularly to watch the home team, Rosenberg - he gave odd, tantalising glimpses of the competitive instincts which brought him Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth titles before the years began to diminish him in the late 1980s.

In the long jump, where he recorded a miserable 6.48 metres, he appeared to have gone over seven metres with his last effort only for a foul stemming from his ring-rusty run-up technique to render it academic. In the high jump, he cleared 1.88m with ease, and narrowly failed at 1.91.

But even four years ago in Seoul, when he completed his last decathlon, he was long-jumping 7.38 and high-jumping 2.03, and his 100m in Trondheim - 11.18sec - perhaps told the story most simply. Yes, it was cold. But he is slow.

Daley Thompson's rival Alex Kruger failed to reach the Olympic qualifying standard in the Trondheim meeting last night. The Liverpudlian managed a score of 7,701 - 149 points below the required standard.

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