Have You Played… Daley Thompson’s Decathlon?


Contrary to conventional wisdom, games learned to run before they could walk. Predating all of the walking simulators by many many years, Daley Thompson’s Decathlon simulated the act of running rather fast perfectly, and it only needed two buttons. One for each leg.

Eat your heart out, QWOP.


  1. wombat191 says:

    I remember playing this on a friends C64.. You played by waggling the jotstick.. it was renowned for destroying joysticks haha

    I’m just glad the joysticks back then were easy to repair.. cut out part of a coke can for parts and you are ready to go :D

    • Addie says:

      Learning how to solder a broken kempston back together with bits of a coke can after a few games of Olympic Challenge is what started me off on a career in engineering, I’m sure.

      • AlishaDavey says:

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    • Kefren says:

      I always kept broken joysticks for parts. My faves were the Quickshot 2 Turbo for flight and spaceship games, or games requiring a spacebar (Green Beret, 1942 etc), but it was too fragile for wagglers. I got a soft spot for the Konix Speedking, but that took both hands.

      When I play Sepctrum, C64 and Amiga games on my emulators, I use a joystick that is basically a microswitched Kempston but plugs into the PC as a USB controller. The joystick gets me in the mood even before the games load.

      Oh, I preferred Hypersports to DTD.

      • Rorschach617 says:

        God, Hypersports! Those were the days!

        I still remember the Vaulting game. waggle waggle waggle to pick up speed, press to jump, press to land on your horse, then press for the dismount, waggle waggle waggle for the somersaults, try to make your guy land on his head for the laughs.


        • Kefren says:

          My fave was skeet shooting – I only had to press left or right, and it was more about timing (and your sights got bigger the more you hit). It was like a reward after the waggling!

          • GameOverMan says:

            Same here. That’s why I preferred the Summer/Winter Games from Epyx. They had more relaxed events that required more dexterity than strength and/or endurance.

      • Premium User Badge

        Big Dunc says:

        Having got through 2 or 3 Quickshot 2 Turbos whilst playing games like Daley Thompson and Hypersports on the Speccy, I can definitely confirm that they were not designed for that kind of waggling.

      • fray_bentos says:

        Hahaha, you said “but plugs”…hahahah….ha…h…

      • MrObvious says:

        Joystick? What’s a joystick? Nobody could afford such a luxury here, back then. I distinctly remember those home-made DIY controllers for the ZX, made from, for real, plastic door-bell switches side by side (one for each direction, one for fire button) on a wooden base. L,R,U,D,F in a single row :) Some of them even ended up in gaming exhibits.

  2. rustybroomhandle says:

    Amagad they made him whiiiiite! :p

  3. Faldrath says:

    I did not play that one, but I did play the old Decathlon for the Atari 2600, a lot. That game must have earned Atari a lot due to new controllers… having to quickly swing the stick left and right to run was madness.

    • Kefren says:

      And those joysticks were never comfortable, whether held in the hand or pressed down on a table. I got blisters once (can’t remember the game – Berzerk maybe, or Yar’s Revenge). The orange fire button was also a bit tricksy.

      • wombat191 says:

        haha Those were the days. Ergonomics???? Don’t be a wimp enjoy your square block joystick and the blisters that came with it !

  4. Martijn says:

    The 1500m on this on the C64 has to be the most physically challenging computer game I have ever played. In the also otherwise superior Summer Games, they mercifully only used the waggling method for the sprint events. The longer distances were more about pacing yourself, with some waggling sprints thrown in.

    • Premium User Badge

      alison says:

      Hear hear. Completing this game felt like you actually had just run 1500m.

      Although, when i played this on a CPC emulator a while back for a nostalgia kick it felt far less challenging than it did as a kid. Perhaps 30 years of hard training finally paid off. Either that or using a keyboard is cheating.

    • buedi says:

      Those 1500m (I thought the game was called Final Decathlon on the C64?) was the worst when you had to do it and the most hilarious experience you could have when a friend did it. When the arm and hand started to cramp and then the face did.
      Especially when someone was playing it for the first time, the best part was waiting for him to get to 1400m. If my memory serves right, the last 100m where a sprint. When you were exhausted the most, you had to sprint and move the stick twice as fast.

      So much pain and so much fun… depending on which side you stood :-)

    • GameOverMan says:

      The 1500m event made me realize that I shouldn’t play those kind of games during the summer vacation. It was fine during Christmas, you could play that and save a lot on electricity bills since you wouldn’t need any kind of heating.

  5. vorador says:

    A blast from the past. I still remember the short music it played on the title screen, and how exhausting it was to play.

  6. ghossttman says:

    Judging by the text of the ‘article’ (if you can call twenty words an article), I’d say the author hasn’t. Two buttons? Even the original arcade game used the joystick-waggling for running.

    Fake news, sellout, etc etc…

    • Scurra says:

      I never had a joystick. I still recall the blisters created by the two button mashing, especially on the rubber-key Spectrum. (That was the only time I envied my C64 friends…)

      • Ghostwise says:

        I also played Decathlon on PC in the early 1980s with two keys. I’m not sure a joystick even existed back then for the big beige IBM steel thing.

        It’s odd how the quality of the comments keeps going down as RPS’ reach and page views increase.

      • TheSplund says:

        I had a 3rd party keyboard that my speccy attached to the underside – didn’t make the game much easier though.

    • ghossttman says:

      My bad. I got confused between buttons on a controller/joystick and keys on a keyboard.

      In our house, it reached the point that nobody ever bothered with the 1500m because the hand cramps from waggling the joystick (itself salvaged from the Atari 2600) were just too much.

  7. chuckieegg says:

    Was there a pc release of this? Anyway, all these years later, I still don’t know whether it was intended to have Miner Willy in the crowd.

  8. Vacuity729 says:

    Oh, my. Yes, I have. The button mashing was extreme, and the longer races were torture.

  9. RaymondQSmuckles says:

    Am I missing something? This is such an obvious Track and Field rip-off, yet it isn’t being called out as such. And Activision’s Decathlon for 2600 predates it by a year. Track and Field arcade had two variations: track ball pinching your fingertips and two-button mashing. 2600 Decathlon used the joystick waggle which SUUUUUUCKED for the 1500m.

    • Mungrul says:

      DTD was a very, very British thing.
      The Speccy and C64 were pretty much the only competitors in the UK gaming scene at the time, and Atari didn’t really make a splash over here until the ST.
      The gaming crash that you guys over the other side of the pond go on about had no real bearing on the UK gaming scene.
      And as RPS is primarily a UK site, written by UK journos of a certain age… well, DTD was the defining olympics-style game for a generation, and was only helped by bearing the name of one of our most loved sporting heroes.