The British Olympic silver medallist and BBC sports presenter Colin Jackson has spoken publicly for the first time about being gay, saying he thought the time was right to reveal his sexuality.
In an interview for a Swedish documentary called Rainbow Heroes, the Welsh two-time 110m hurdles world champion said the reason he had not previously spoken of his sexuality was to avoid it being “sensationalised”.
Jackson, 50, said he told his parents in 2006 after a former partner sold a “kiss and tell” story to a tabloid newspaper. “I was waiting for them in the kitchen. They walked in and they sat down. My mother could see my face and I was quite distraught. It didn’t faze them at all.”
Speaking to two Swedish former athletes, high-jumper Kajsa Bergqvist and long-jumper Peter Häggström, the track star said: “My mum went: ‘First of all, is the story true?’
“And I said so it’s true, so it’s not like I can deny it. And then she went: ‘Well, why are people so disgraceful?’ I just realised, I’ve got the best parents.”
He told the presenters he had opened up because of the way they had questioned him. “The way you asked me, it was a whole storytelling kind of thing and you were just interested in the way it affected me sports-wise, emotionally wise and my preparation.”
Jackson spoke about the stigma around gay athletes to the Voice newspaper in 2008 when he said: “It’s the 21st century. I don’t think anybody thinks about that any more. There might have been a stigma in years gone by.”
Jackson retired from athletics in 2003. Other athletes, such as the race walker Tom Bosworth, have come out while still competing.
Bosworth came out as gay in 2015, and has since been an impressive advocate for LGBT rights. At the time he told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show: “Coming out is no surprise to my friends, family and even team-mates.”
He had told team-mates at a training camp before the World AthleticsChampionships in 2015. “It was a great chance to talk about in a relaxed environment and everyone was very supportive,” he said.
Recently, he spoke of his doubts that a top-flight English footballer would ever come out because nothing was changing in the game, and fans still created an atmosphere where they dared not.
The Olympic diver Tom Daley’s decision to come out, which he did in a self-made YouTube clip in December 2013, was a “huge step in the right direction”, according to Bosworth, who added the sports profession still lagged behind others when it came to sexuality.
Keegan Hirst, the then prop and captain of Batley Bulldogs, came out publicly in August 2015, becoming the first British rugby league player to do so while still playing, and receiving an overwhelmingly positive reaction from fans and fellow players.
Casey Stoney, capped more than 100 times for the England women’s national football team, has said she decided to speak publicly about her sexuality after the positive reaction to Daley saying he was in a relationship with a man.
The Australian Olympic gold medallist swimmer Ian Thorpe, who came out in 2014, said he had wanted to for some time, “but I didn’t feel I could. Part of me didn’t know if Australia wanted its champion to be gay.”