Colin Jackson

Colin Jackson Picture credit: BBC

COLIN JACKSON is a former sprint and hurdling athlete who specialised in the 110 metres hurdles and is widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes never to win an Olympic title.

During a career in which he represented Great Britain and Wales, he won an Olympic silver medal, became world champion twice, world indoor champion, went undefeated at the European Championships for 12 years and was a two-time Commonwealth champion. His world record of 12.91sec for the 110m hurdles stood for over a decade.

Jackson won his first major medal, a silver for Wales, in the 110m hurdles, aged 19 at the 1986 Commonwealth Games. He soon established himself on the global scene, taking bronze at the 1987 World Championships and a silver medal at the 1988 Olympics.

After winning another silver in the 60m hurdles at the 1989 IAAF World Indoor Championships, he won European and Commonwealth gold medals in 1990.

The 1993 season saw him reach the pinnacle of his sport; after a silver at the Indoor Worlds, he went on to set a world record of 12.91 seconds to become the world champion. This mark was unbeaten for almost 13 years. Jackson also helped the British 4×100m relay team to the world silver medal.

This period was perhaps Jackson’s most successful – he had a streak of 44 races undefeated between 1993 and 1995. In addition to European and Commonwealth golds outdoors in 1994, he set another world record, running 7.30sec in the 60m hurdles.

Jackson was a master of the ‘dip’ – the skill of leaning forward at the end of a race to advance the position of the shoulders and improve times (and potentially positions). He was also renowned for being a particularly fast starter, which led to a great deal of success in 60m events.

A double gold at the 1994 European Athletics Indoor Championships in the 60m hurdles and sprint events saw him set a European record of 6.49sec over 60 metres. Injury affected his 1995–1996 seasons and he finished just outside the medals at the 1996 Olympics.

He returned to the global podium in 1997, taking silver twice behind Anier García at the Indoor World Championships and Allen Johnson in the World Outdoors.

After winning the European Championships for a third consecutive time in 1998 he became world champion indoors and out in 1999, earning him the Welsh Sports Personality of the Year award.

He finished fifth at the 2000 Olympics and his last major medals came in 2002, taking European indoor and outdoor gold and a Commonwealth silver.

After a period of sports management and coaching, he went on to work as a sports commentator for athletics and television presenter, predominantly for the BBC.

He appeared as a contestant, and eventual runner-up, in Strictly Come Dancing in 2005, as well as a number of other entertainment and factual TV shows, and is a well known face on British television.

Colin Jackson competing on Strictly Come Dancing Picture credit: BBC

Jackson, born in Cardiff on February 18, 1967, is of Jamaican, Maroon, Taino, and Scottish ancestry. He is the brother of actress Suzanne Packer who played Tess Bateman in the BBC One hospital drama Casualty.

Jackson grew up in Birchgrove, attending Springwood Primary School and then Llanedeyrn High School. An excellent all-round sportsman, he played football and cricket for the county and rugby union and basketball for his school and joined the athletics club Birchgrove Harriers, which nurtured his talent.

As captain of his school cricket team, and playing under-15s cricket for Glamorgan, he and four team-mates were invited to trials for the Welsh national cricket team; whilst his team-mates were all picked, Jackson was passed over – he attributed this to racism, and has said it resulted in him quitting the sport and focusing on athletics, as “athletics had more people that looked like me”.

Although Jackson was brought up in the UK, he remembers his parents cheering on Jamaican Don Quarrie in the 1976 Olympics, inspiring him to want to “be like that”.

Jackson started out as a promising decathlete and long jumper with Brecon and Cardiff AAC before switching to high hurdles under the guidance of Welsh national coach Malcolm Arnold.

On June 20, 1981, at the then new Morfa Stadium in Swansea, Jackson won the Welsh Under-15 80m hurdles and a week later at Brecon he won the Welsh Schools crown, along with the javelin title for good measure.

After winning gold at the 1986 World Junior Championships, he soon switched to the senior ranks. Following a silver medal in the 1986 Commonwealth Games, he won the 110m hurdles silver at the 1988 Olympic Games behind Roger Kingdom.

Although his career as an active competitor in the event would last a further 15 years – the last 10 of these as world record holder, and see him twice crowned world champion, twice Commonwealth champion and four times European champion – this would remain his only Olympic medal of any colour.

Even though he would appear at three more Olympics, his debut had provided him with his greatest Games moment. In 1992, he eased through his first round heat in 13.10sec (which proved faster than the gold-medal winning time), but was restricted by an injury he picked up during the next round and could only finish seventh in the final, and in 1996 he came fourth and in 2000, fifth.

He set his world record for the 110 metres hurdles on August 20, 1993, winning his first World Championships gold medal in Stuttgart, Germany in 12.91sec.

Colin Jackson in hurdles action Picture credit: BBC

He ended the year being named as the IAAF Male Athlete of 1993, receiving the award on a spectacular evening of glory for Britain when Sally Gunnell, who had broken the 400m hurdles world record on her way to Stuttgart triumph, won the Female award.

At the 1994 European Indoor Championships, Jackson became a double European champion, winning in both the 60m hurdles and 60m sprint race.

Six years after his first world title, Jackson regained his 110m hurdles crown at the 1999 Seville World Championships. This was to be his last gold medal at the very highest level, but he added a final, fourth successive European Championships gold in the 2002 Munich European Championships, extending an unbroken reign as European Champion stretching back to 1990.

After ending his athletics career at the 2003 World Indoor Championships, Jackson coached his close friend the swimmer Mark Foster until Foster’s retirement in April 2016. He also coached two of Wales’s best Olympic prospects, 400m runner Tim Benjamin and 400m hurdler Rhys Williams.

He was also one of the members of the successful London 2012 Olympic bid team and became a regular member of BBC television’s athletics coverage. He started his broadcasting career in 2004 by co-hosting, with fellow hurdler Gunnell, the BBC reality TV programme Born to Win.

He became the face of BBC’s Raise Your Game with Colin Jackson in which he talked to high-profile international stars about the importance of learning and took up a directorship of multimedia production company Red Shoes.

Already the holder of the MBE which he received in 1990 for his services to athletics, in 1999 he was advanced to an OBE and then in 2003 to a CBE.

Jackson has written three books: the first, The Young Track and Field Athlete, was published in March 1996 by Dorling Kindersley; his second, Colin Jackson: The Autobiography, was published in April 2004 by BBC Books; and his last, Life’s New Hurdles, was published in March 2008 by Accent Press Ltd as part of the Quick Reads Initiative.

In 2012, Jackson launched the Red Shoes Academy, through which Olympic and Paralympic sports personalities deliver presentations to school assemblies to motivate youngsters to find the ‘Champion Within’.

In 2013, Jackson created his own charitable fundraising event for men, Go Dad Run, to raise awareness of men’s health issues and funds for male-based charities Prostate Cancer UK, Bowel Cancer UK, Orchid and CALM, plus local Cancer Care charities and hospices.

On August 26, 2017, Jackson came out as gay in a clip on Swedish television promoting the series Rainbow Heroes.

His sexuality wasn’t the only secret Jackson was hiding during the height of his fame as he was also suffering from an eating disorder, meaning he would go days without meals, or make himself sick when he consumed food.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: “I suffered with bulimia and anorexia when I was training for the Olympics – I felt like I was overweight and eating too much.

“I had a job to do – and it was to run as fast as I could and I convinced myself that I had to be lighter to do it.

In February 2019, Jackson was inaugurated as a Chancellor of Wrexham Glyndwr University, after being awarded with an Honorary Fellowship in 2016 for his contribution to sport.

In 2020, Jackson joined other celebrities in an S4C television series called Iaith ar Daith (‘Language on Tour’) in which they take a crash course in the Welsh language while travelling around Wales. At the end of the series he was interviewed in Welsh.

Colin Jackson major athletics medals
Olympic Games
1988 Seoul: Silver, 110m hurdles
World Championships
1993 Stuttgart: Gold, 110m hurdles
1999 Seville: Gold, 110m hurdles
1993 Stuttgart: Silver, 4x100m relay
1997 Athens: Silver, 110m hurdles
1987 Rome: Bronze, 110m hurdles
World Indoor Championships
1999 Maebashi: Gold, 60m hurdles
1989 Budapest: Silver, 60m hurdles
1993 Toronto: Silver, 60m hurdles
1997 Paris: Silver, 60m hurdles
European Championships
1990 Split: Gold, 110m hurdles
1994 Helsinki: Gold, 110m hurdles
1998 Budapest: Gold, 110m hurdles
2002 Munich: Gold, 110m hurdles
European Indoor Championships
1989 The Hague: Gold, 60m hurdles
1994 Paris: Gold, 60m
1994 Paris: Gold, 60m hurdles
Commonwealth Games (for Wales)
1990 Auckland: Gold, 110m hurdles
1994 Victoria: Gold, 110m hurdles
1986 Edinburgh: Silver, 110m hurdles
2002 Manchester: Silver, 110m hurdles