How We Met: Colin Jackson & Jonathan Edwards

'When we get together we act like idiots, sitting watching the athletics like two schoolboys'
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Jonathan Edwards, 42, remains the triple-jump world-record holder with a leap of 18.29m made in 1995. In an athletics career that lasted until 2003, he won gold at Olympic, European, World and Commonwealth championships. Now a commentator for the BBC, he is currently covering the Olympics in Beijing. He lives in Newcastle with his wife and two sons

Colin was already a star of British athletics when I joined the team as a relative unknown at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. I was in awe of him and the team, which included people like Linford Christie, Fatima Whitbread, Steve Cram and Kriss Akabusi. Colin was the most talented athlete of his generation but also a really nice guy and very easy to get on with. Usually you see sports people only on the track, when they are serious and focused, but I'd say most of us are easygoing and know how to let our hair down. Colin definitely does. He was always laughing with Kriss Akabusi.

I remember when Colin broke the 110m hurdles world record in Stuttgart in 1993. I got a bronze, my first major medal, and Sally Gunnell and Linford Christie won their events. It was a golden era for British athletics, but there was a lot of pressure on Colin, as he was world number one but had underperformed at earlier events. There was a question mark over whether he could perform at the highest level. But he answered all those questions in the way he ran and there was a look of relief as much as joy when he crossed the line.

Colin is a beautiful athlete to watch. He was almost feline in the way he ran. I've always believed aesthetics add to sport.

It's not easy to make the move from sport to TV. A lot of people get nervous and tight when they get on television, so their true personality doesn't come out and people don't warm to them. But Colin is able to be natural in front of the camera. Strictly Come Dancing helped him a huge amount because viewers saw even more of that. I watched him and knew he would be brilliant. Nothing really seems to faze him. He is always laughing and nobody has a bad word to say about him.

We're both working for the BBC in Beijing and fingers crossed we won't be sacked between now and 2012. We sat next to each other in Singapore when they awarded London the Olympics. Colin was the first person I hugged. It probably beat any experience I've had in athletics. It was stunning.

Colin Jackson, 41, set a 110m hurdles world record in 1993; it stood for 13 years. He is now a coach and BBC commentator, also currently in Beijing, and narrowly lost out to cricketer Darren Gough in the 2005 final of the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing. He lives in Cardiff

Jonathan was really quiet when I met him. You could see he was a bit overwhelmed by all these people who were loud and had an opinion on everything. It must have been quite difficult because back then he was heavily involved in the church. There was a definite religious clique with Jonathan, Diane Modahl, Kriss Akabusi and a couple of others. Then there was the louder posse I was in, with Dalton Grant, Linford Christie, Daley Thompson and Steve Cram. It actually made for a good team – there was never any tension, which surprised me. Jonathan was never judgmental and always happily joined in. We completely trusted him and were also interested that somebody could become world-class in the environment he was in.

We all looked at Jonathan and thought, he's too skinny to be a jumper – there's no way he'll do anything. But then he started to jump over 17m and began sprinting with us in training. He was flying! He was lightning over 60m. The fact that he was happy to line up with the best of us earned him a lot of respect. We had an end-of-year bash when Sally Gunnell was about to retire and Jonathan and I ended up on adjacent lanes in a 200m relay. He still talks to this day about how he held me off; I've never told him I wasn't about to run flat-out and tear my hamstring on a fun run.

I was in Zurich when Jonathan broke the world record in Stuttgart. I watched on TV and was gobsmacked to see him smash it twice. It was one of those moments when you feel proud to be British. I just shrugged my shoulders and wanted to say, "That's my boy." I knew he had it in him – he was unique as an athlete. He used his focus, skill and rhythm to the maximum and nobody has come close to matching him. People forget how strong he was, as he looks as if he could have walked in off the street.

I've been badgering Jonathan to do Strictly Come Dancing to show off his fun side. And he definitely has a fun side. When we get together for the BBC we act like idiots, sitting watching the athletics, wearing shorts and carrying backpacks like two schoolboys. I also think he'd have the moves to dance well.

It's nice to hook up at big athletics meets like the Olympics; it's rare that we have a chance to catch up because we're often flying around doing different things. We always say we'll go skiing together but haven't managed it yet. Jonathan's a boarder. One time he came to a meet with a plaster on his arm because he'd had an accident in a snowboard park. I said, "Act your age, Jonathan!" I'll have to persuade him to get on skis – it's much more sensible.

Edwards and Jackson recently took part in The Volkswagen Touareg King of Cowes at Skandia Cowes Week 2008. For further information, visit www.volkswagen.co.uk and www.kingofcowes.com

Comments