Colin Jackson: ‘That feeling of being constantly judged is extremely hard work’

Colin Jackson: ‘I’m blessed to still live in Wales – contrary to popular belief it doesn’t rain all the time’ – Jay Williams

Colin Jackson rose to fame when he won a silver medal at the 1986 Commonwealth Games at the age of 19. Two years later he represented Great Britain at the Olympics and won a silver medal. During his career, the Welshman claimed world records in the 110m hurdles and 60m hurdles, which stood for 10 and 27 years respectively.

Since retiring from athletics, Jackson’s media career has included commentary on various athletic events, as well as appearances on Come strictly dance And Dancing on ice. He is currently race director for Wings For Life World Run, a unique running competition from which proceeds go to spinal cord research.

Best performance of your career?

I would have to say when I won the high hurdles title at the World Junior Championships at the age of 19. I would move up to the seniors later that year, but it was my first major title. It was difficult for me to win because I had so many injuries when I participated. I didn’t believe I would actually win. Everything else I’ve competed in, I knew I was good and I had the championships and medals to prove it. But that was my first big match, I thought I had no hope at all, so it will always stand out as my best career performance because it set me on the path that led to everything else.

The best way to motivate yourself?

I always think the best way to motivate yourself is to put yourself in a situation where you feel like you belong somewhere. I really enjoyed working with Wings For Life World Run because I get to do it with a lot of other people. It also gives a sense of purpose because we are raising money for spinal cord injuries. I think community and doing good are the two best motivators. Find a way to do both at the same time and you’ll get through anything.

The best thing about setting world records?

Surely it’s the fame that comes with it, celebrating your success. Actually, the money is even better! I’m just kidding; I honestly think it’s special to be able to look at your achievements and say you were the very best person on earth at what you did. Just to say: of the billions of people on this planet, you were the very best who ever lived anywhere. Not many people can say that.

Colin Jackson's Olympic GamesColin Jackson's Olympic Games

Colin Jackson competes in the men’s 110 meter hurdles at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul – Steve Powell/Getty Images

Best childhood memory?

I remember my parents getting very excited about Jamaican sprinter Don Quarrie in the men’s 100 meters at the 1976 Olympics. He had a bad start and finished second. My mom and dad are both Jamaican and they were disappointed he didn’t get the gold. I remember looking at my parents and thinking, “Damn, they are So invested in this person they don’t even know.” A few years ago I was able to introduce Don Quarrie to my parents, which was a “pinch me” moment.

Best advice you ever received?

Probably from my all-time hero, the athlete Daley Thompson. In athletics people always say you always have to be ‘dedicated and dedicated’, but what Daley said to me was ‘What we do is fun, it’s not about dedication or commitment, it’s about fun. If you don’t like it, leave. If you want to know about dedication, think about it this way: you could be a miner twelve hours a day, that’s dedication.” I remember hearing that and realizing how right he was, and ever since then I’ve focused on having fun.

The best thing about being Welsh?

I am blessed to still live in Wales. We have the beaches, the mountains, the food, the people of course. We have a huge passion and spirit for being Welsh. Every time I go away I always want to come back. I’m from Cardiff so I’d encourage everyone to explore the city, but also visit the beaches of the Gower Peninsula, climb the hills of Snowdonia and see the Llŷn Peninsula – it’s breathtaking. There are so many different things to do in Wales. Contrary to popular belief, it does not always rain.

Worst vacation you’ve ever had?

As a child, I hated visiting my family in London every summer. The worst was during the heat wave of 1976. My uncle’s house has no air conditioning and about four families lived there. I was only nine, but I still remember how terribly uncomfortable it was.

The worst thing about a career in athletics?

There is simply no room for error. I mean, you can be one of the top eight runners in the entire world, but if you finish eighth in that race, no one cares. How many other people can say that being the eighth best in the world at something is pointless? That feeling of constantly being judged, constantly not being good enough, constantly having to be at the top, is extremely hard work.

Worst day of your life?

During the 1992 Olympics I injured myself in the second round because I didn’t warm up. If I had warmed up and not just jumped on the track and walked, I would have been fine. It still hurts because that stupid bit of laziness cost me my chance at an Olympic gold medal. I was the best in the world, I had beaten the second best every day in training, but that little bit of laziness rubbed it off and I never got back into that position.

The worst influence on you?

I would like to take this opportunity to check the name of my school friend Gary Parry. You’re a bad influence on me, buddy. Gary was always more into the music and arts scene than sports, and they have a lot of late nights. Serious late nights. Late nights that are not conducive to good training performance. I was convinced I’d do a few too many, I guess…

Worst object in your house right now?

I have this huge bronze statue of Mercury, the messenger god. I love it, but everyone who comes into my house hate it with such passion that anyone would say so. I love it though, and it’s my house, so it’s here to stay. I’m currently having my house renovated, so I’m wondering if maybe I should put it somewhere where people won’t see it.

Worst modern trend in your opinion?

Social media. The number of hours we spend on social media, connecting with people we don’t even know. I don’t get it, I really don’t get it. I’m so glad this wasn’t around when I was an athlete. When you see the trolling, the endless negativity, you wonder if people would be so brave if they didn’t have a fake name to hide behind. If you see something you don’t like, don’t work with it at all, what’s the point?

The worst thing about quitting exercise?

Losing your sports body. You look at pictures of yourself from when you were young and fit and think “my goodness, what would I do to get that body back”, then you remember how much hard work it took to get it back, and you think “ actually, you keep it, I have the photos”. Does this sound superficial? I still have a six-pack, but it’s not the six-pack I used to have.

Absolutely the worst

Very, very controversial, and as a Welshman I shouldn’t admit this, but I can’t stand the taste of lamb. I go to dinner parties and people serve it and I think, “This meat is so rancid, it’s so nasty.” There are plenty of other delicious meats, whether you choose vegetarian or vegan, I don’t mind, but I think we should all give up lamb. It’s terrible. I can not stand it.

Colin Jackson is the international sports director of the Wings for Life World Run, the largest running event in the world. To register, visit

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