Date of Birth: 1967
Club(s): Cardiff AAC, Brecon
Coach: Malcolm Arnold
What A Record
Colin Jackson retired in 2003, after finishing fifth at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham, the 71st appearance for Britain in a spectacular career. One of the greatest athletes never to win an Olympic title, Jackson did just about everything else at the 110m hurdles: double world champion, four times European champion, twice Commonwealth champion and world record-holder for almost 13 years. And all these achievements for an athlete who played under-15s cricket for Glamorgan in 1981, the same year in which he joined Cardiff Athletics Club.
He won the Welsh Junior 80m hurdles title that year too, showing great concentration even as a youngster. An accomplished all-rounder, during his career there were occasions when there was talk about him becoming a Decathlete and even later on, he spoke of a desire to compete at the Long Jump but he remained on the track.
Born in Wales to Jamaican parents, Jackson’s roots were from a family who were part of the slave trade which he discovered during a 2006 television programme tracing his roots. As an athlete, his brilliance was his tenacity never to be written off, which he proved at the World Championships in 1999 when he won gold, six years after victory in the event in Stuttgart, and thus becoming the first Briton to regain a World title.
Not Always No.1
After winning the first ever World Junior title in Athens in 1986 in 13.44, with his teammate Jon Ridgeon second in 13.91, the tide turned the following summer when both Britons reached the senior World Championships. They both made the podium, but as Greg Foster, of the USA, won in 13.21, it was Ridgeon who finished second in 13.29 with Jackson third in 13.38. But then, while Jackson’s career soared, Ridgeon, who was made British Athlete Of The Year in 1987, never savoured such heights again as injury played its ugly hand.
Twelve months later, Jackson won silver at the Olympic Games in Seoul as another American, Roger Kingdom, took gold in 12.98, with the Welshman clocking 13.28. Even though he would appear at three more Olympics, his debut provided him with his greatest Games moment. In 1990, Jackson began his stranglehold of the European crown, winning in Helsinki, prior to taking gold at the Commonwealth Games in Victoria.
What made him such a great hurdler was not only his speed between the barriers, but the forceful style he showed when climbing them, attacking them with real intent - and he had such elasticity at the finish that often his twisting dip would give him the edge. While he may have looked like he was injuring himself such was the shape of his body on occasions when he triumphed, it was all part of competitive make-up. And a combination which at one stage during his career saw him not loose a 110m hurdles for 44 races.
Jackson set eight European and Commonwealth and nine UK records at 110mh 1988-93, nine UK, four Commonwealth and European at 60mh indoors and 16 Welsh records between 1985-93. But above them all, one record stood out, and it was another example of the way Jackson would deal with the mental blow of not delivering when it mattered.
In 1992, he was the Olympic favourite having beaten the majority of the main contenders. But in the second round in Barcelona, he suffered an injury which hampered his progress. In the final, he was only seventh in 13.46 as Mark McKoy, of Canada, won gold in 13.13. It had all started so well for Jackson, when, in the first round, his time of 13.10 was the quickest ever in a heat but in the second round, his trailing leg hit a hurdle and he sustained a hip problem. Ironically, McKoy was his training partner and even helped massage Jackson’s hip prior to the final, but the Welshman was nowhere near the full fitness that may well have propelled him to victory.
By the time of the World Championships in Stuttgart the following summer, Jackson was on electric form again and he produced the race of his life. He burst from the blocks and soared to victory in 12.91, taking 0.01 off of the world record. It had been some 12 months. After the disappointment of Barcelona, he had finished second behind McKoy in Toronto at the World Indoor Championships 60m hurdles when the Canadian had a clear flier.
Jackson even contemplated retiring, but any pent-up anger was unleashed on this night in Germany when his teammate Tony Jarrett was second in 13.00, the only time Britain have had a one-two in a world championship event. Jackson could never have imagined his world record would last so long, but it did.
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.
Far From Finished
In 1994 he was by far the world’s best, being unbeaten at 60m hurdles indoors at which he first tied the world record at 7.36 and then smashed it with 7.30 at Sindelfingen, and outdoors at 110m hurdles, in which he ran 11 times under 13.10 (including two wind assisted), by far the highest number ever, and he retained his gold medals at both Europeans and Commonwealth Games.
He won a unique double with both 60m flat and 60m hurdles at the 1994 European Indoors, but after missing the World Championships in 1995 because of injury, he again had to endure a horrid time at the Olympic Games when he was only fourth in the final. He responded well again to finish second at the World Championships in Athens in 1997 before 1998 was another amazing year. He won his third successive European title and then, in 1999, on a momentous night in Seville, he retained his world crown with a performance of true grit to triumph in 13.04 ahead of Cuba’s Anier Garcia, who was second in 13.07.
Again, it was a tough year for Jackson because his close friend and training partner, young Scotsman Ross Baillie, had died from an allergic reaction to eating a sandwich with nut traces and the Welshman dedicated his Seville glory to him. He won his ninth and tenth AAA titles in 1999-2000 to beat the old record set by Don Finlay, although he did not quite match the latter's winning span of 1929-49.
In 2000 at Sydney he made his fourth Olympic final, but in the final, he hit the second hurdle hard, losing his usual fluency and came in fifth in 13.28. He knew the Games were not to be. He declined selection for the European Cup and for the World Championships in 2001, but he had a solid season on the Grand Prix circuit, and in 2002, Europe was his stage again. Eight years after his previous European Indoor title and 13 years after his first, he ran wonderfully well to win the 60mh in Vienna in 7.40 and then won a record fourth European 110mh title. He had missed out on regaining the Commonwealth title in Manchester, hitting the first barrier, losing his rhythm and finishing second to Shaun Bownes, of South Africa, before his outdoor career in Britain ended with an emotional third place at the Norwich Union Grand Prix.
After finishing fifth in Birmingham at the World Indoor Championships in 2003, Jackson retired. Having dabbled in the sports management world when he set up the company Nuff Respect with Linford Christie, the pair parted on acrimonious terms. But Jackson has remained at the height of the sport as a commentator for BBC Television and he was in Athens in 2004 watching when Chinese star Liu Xiang won Olympic gold in 12.91, equalling his world record. They remained joint-holders until the Lausanne Grand Prix in 2006 when Liu ran 12.88.