Colin Jackson hoping Paris 2024 could kick-start ‘new generation’ of GB talent

By Sports Desk March 28, 2024

Olympic silver medallist Colin Jackson is convinced this summer’s Paris Games could give rise to a “new generation” of household names in British athletics.

The decorated Welshman secured a silver medal in the 110 metres hurdles at the 1988 Games in Seoul and five years later won gold at the world championships with a world record time of 12.91 seconds that would stand for 11 years.

Jackson, 57, accepts his friend Usain Bolt’s now hung-up spikes might occupy an unfillable place in athletics, but feels the sport is more than ready for new superstars to emerge – an occurrence he believes is only possible at an Olympics.

He told the PA news agency: “If we have a successful team, which it’s believed to be, and we get five or six medals, if we achieve a ‘Super Saturday’ as we did in London 2012, that will be another kick-start, because that signifies a new generation.

“We won’t be looking at Jess (Ennis-Hill), Mo (Farah), Greg (Rutherford) any more. You’re looking at the next generation, touching distance for all up-and-coming athletes, and us pre-historic athletes will be happy to celebrate their success.”

Bolt stepped away from competition in 2017, nine years after the 2008 Beijing Games where he became the first man in history to win 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay golds in world record times in the same Olympics.

The “fastest man on earth” would go on to defend his 100m and 200m titles at an unprecedented two successive Games at London 2012 and Rio 2016, becoming box-office viewing and one of the most recognisable names in sport.

Jackson said: “When Usain [broke through], it happened at the Olympic Games, so when you break through you have to break through on that Olympic level.

“The World Championships are great, fantastic, yes, but it’s that dream of the Olympic Games that will make it come true.

“[Usain] is once in a lifetime, seriously. As an athlete and a person, I’ve known him for a long time and he’s just brilliant. His professionalism is up and beyond. He’s just magic.

“When you see somebody with the physical talent like that but [also] the rest of the attributes to be a global superstar, you’ve just got to tip your hat to him.”

Jackson believes Paris’ proximity and UK-friendly time zone, combined with – unlike the coronavirus-restricted Tokyo 2020 Games – full houses and weeks of “wall-to-wall athletics” across both the Olympic and Paralympic Games could catapult his sport back into the spotlight.

Take your pick of talent, from Zharnel Hughes – tipped by Bolt himself as a contender for 100m gold in Paris – world champion Josh Kerr hoping to upgrade his 1500m Tokyo bronze, 2024 world indoor pole-vaulting champion Molly Caudery or Commonwealth T38 100m champion Olivia Breen, who Jackson feels has “stepped up her game” since winning T38 long jump bronze at the Tokyo Paralympics.

Jackson, now a regular commentator, has spent plenty of time around para athletes and saw his career take off alongside that of fellow Welsh athlete and prolific Paralympic champion Tanni Grey-Thompson.

Still, he admits it was not until he became the international sports director for the Wings for Life World Run, which raises funds for spinal cord injury research, that he truly began to appreciate some of the specific challenges those affected face, from difficulties regulating temperature to insufficient government support.

The event, backed by Allwyn in a three-year partnership, takes place on May 5 this year, with everyone departing at the same time – midday in the UK – regardless of time zone across the globe.

Anyone can take part in the event, which embraces walkers, wheelchair-users and anyone else looking to test themselves against an in-person or virtual ‘catcher car’, covering as much distance as they are able.

Jackson’s advice to participants feels just as poignant for the Team GB and ParalympicsGB athletes poised for Paris.

“You should (always) be slightly disappointed,” he said. “Let me come back, work a little harder, just go a little bit further.

“Nothing is ever perfect, but excellence is good enough.”

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