‘It would be an injustice if Paula Radcliffe never won Olympic gold’

HIS ANSWERS come as quickly as the hurdles he repeatedly conquered over 110m when Colin Jackson is asked which British Olympians he believes will capture gold next summer.

Triple jumper Phillips Idowu, heptathlete Jessica Ennis, long jumper Greg Rutherford, Dai Greene, the Welsh 400m hurdler – all get a namecheck. And then the one he has clearly relishes leaving until last.

“Finally someone who we all know but who has been off our radar for some time: Paula Radcliffe,” says Jackson (right), warming to his topic.

“She’s been off doing her mothery thing, which is great to see, and she’s happy where she’s at now. But when she’s back running and at her best again, London will be one of these times where she will be inspired.”

London 2012 could represent a final shot at Olympic glory for Radcliffe, 37, the world record holder for some eight years who has endured such heartbreak at previous Games.

“It would be great to see Paula lift an Olympic title as I believe she is certainly the best female marathon runner there has ever been,” he adds. “In a way I think it would be an injustice if she didn’t. She’s given everything to the sport; she’s so dedicated.”

Jackson, 44, who took silver at Seoul in 1988 but also suffered Olympic frustration despite largely dominating his event throughout the 1990s, is helping the class of 2012 by acting as an ambassador and mentor.

So when Idowu, Ennis and Rutherford are approaching the blocks next summer he will be on hand to advise, while also showing dignitaries around the park and bestowing Olympic insight. He’s a touch jealous.

“Can you imagine being the very first British Olympic champion here on home soil? It would just be incredible,” he enthuses. “You’d get elevated overnight to hero status, so for them it will be fantastic. I’m really envious.”

Building excitement about the Games has been soured lately by public rows over the future of the Olympic Stadium and how profits will be shared by organisers Locog and the British Olympic Association. Jackson has seen it all before.

“This time of year these stories always leak out because there is no real sporting story to talk about,” he says. “The Olympic Games is the biggest thing; there must be some kind of scandal or gossip in it, so we expect that. It happens, we accept it, but we can bag it up and move on.”

For now he is also aiming to help inspire future generations of British Olympians by promoting Tesco’s Great School Run, for which the supermarket giant has recruited more than 1m children this year.

“When the Games is over this is one of the legacy projects that’s happening,” he says. “The Olympics will engage youngsters; this campaign will continue and engage more.”

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