Tony Jarrett of Enfield & Haringey AC is currently the second fastest ever 110m hurdler in the United Kingdom has ever produced with his 13.00 in Stuttgart in 1993.
It was obvious he showed promise at the event early on because, he had only turned 20 the month before he made the 1988 Olympic Final in Seoul, Korea, where he came sixth in 13.54 ahead of 1992 Olympic Champion Mark McKoy (13.61) and Arthur Blake (13.96). He went on to gain eleven Major Championship Medals within the following 10 years, including being UK Champion in 1988-89 and 1997 and AAA's 'Champion in 2001. He was unlucky not to get a bronze medal in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, losing third by 1/1000'th of a second in 13.26 but, all in all, the man will go down as a really great competitor and a charismatic character in the sport, who now coaches successfully.
How did it all begin for Tony Jarrett
" I started first with my P.E. teacher and he used to take us down the track after school when we did athletics. That was where I met my first coach John Issacs. He came up to me after a meeting and just said ' I can make you a Champion!' That was it!'.
The first time he came into hurdling was at his school St Thomas Moore, Wood Green, Tottenham
' Nobody wanted to do the hurdles. My PE teacher said go over them and see what you can do. I had a lead leg and it looked like a trail leg but it wasn't. He said try and run for the school a few times.'
Of course he was quite good at the 100 & 200 (Life time PB's10.41/20.50)
' For my school I used to do the high jump, long jump, sometimes the 100 and 4x100.
' Unfortunately I was the only one who took up the hurdling . Our school was good at athletics and football but I was hopeless at football but my skills were in athletics.
When then did he feel he could really get amongst the best
' I went to a meeting called the UK Colts. What made it for me was that I made the Final and, I was still young and running against seniors. I came 4th or 5th in the Final. I was competing with some of the best guys in Britain and I made that Final. I did not come last which really was quite good.'
What races would he say made a big impact on him in his athletic career
' My first one was winning the English Schools that was in Portsmouth (1984---13.9w)
' To win the European Juniors' (1987-1 Tony Jarrett 13.72, 2 Florian Schwarthoff (FRG) 13.81, 3 Paul Gray (GB) 14.16)
' Going to the Olympics in 1988 then,after that Stuttgart was my pinnacle (20th of August 1993. First five --1 Colin Jackson (GB) World Record of 12.91, 2 Tony Jarrett (GB) 13.00, 3 Jack Pierce (USA) 13.06, 4 Emilio Valle (Cuba) 13.20, 5 Florian Schwarthoff (FRG) 13.27.
' Really knowing I was running the times and, running World Class times. At Gothenburg I ran really fast but got beat! (World Championships 12th of August 1995 First 3- 1 Allen Johnson (USA) 13.0, 2 Tony Jarrett (GB) 13.04,3 Roger Kingdom (USA) 13.17-The Olympic Champion 0f 84-88.).
He ran against some 'Great' high hurdlers. I had interviewed a few of those before his time like Willie Davenport, Rob Milburn, and Renaldo Nehemiah. Which one's stood out for him
' My ultimate hurdler was Renaldo Nehemiah'
He did not go to the Olympics of 1980 when America pulled out but he easily beat the Olympic Champion Thomas Munkelt when he ran against him
'He was like Colin & Roger Kingdom he moved the hurdles on. He was the first man to go under 13 seconds (12.93 Zurich 19th of August 1981)---To do that at that time was amazing for me. I always wanted to be like him and always wanted to race him. (Renaldo went into American football in 1982 and Played for the San Francisco 49ers but made a come back in 1986 and, still managed to get into the top 10 in the world but not like he was at his very best again).
Tony continued:- ' When I did beat him I was so happy when, I crossed the line looking at him. I thought I have beaten Nehemiah! I had a big picture of him on my wall. To actually see him and compete against him was absolutely amazing .There were people like Roger Kingdom, a really nice guy who would give out information. He was really good.'
If Tony Jarrett was to look in his cupboard and put one medal above all others, which one would he value the most?
' I think Stuttgart. Though I had my Commonwealth Gold (1998 at Kuala Lumpur. He got two Commonwealth silvers as well and, a bronze at the World Indoors in Barcelona in 1995). At Stuttgart it took a World record to beat me. Colin was awesome that year and I look at that 13.00. It would win most Championships any day but unfortunately I had greatness in front of me.'
Tony Jarrett coaches hurdlers these days
' I have a guy called Alex Al Ameen (Southern Champion) and Gianni Frankis who are coming along well. I have got another few hurdlers in the pipeline.'
.Tony loves athletics still! Hughie Teape was sitting with Tony at Crystal Palace when I spoke to him
' I do love athletics still and, this was my training partner Hughie Teape (Olympic finalist in 1992 and 4th Commonwealth 1990 in 13.58)-.having him as a training partner was one of the greatest things that helped me'
'When I came into training with John Issacs he was really good and in his prime. I looked up to him because he was running faster than me and gave good advice'
'I was very lucky because I had good coaches. I had Mike McFarlane in my training group and Clarence Callender who was a good 200m runner and later on John Regis to run against. When I first started athletics I wanted to be a sprinter like Carl Lewis but then my coach changed my mind and I looked at people like Nehemiah and people like that.
Tom McNab, the coach, said to me that if you are a high performer like you were, you would have used up all the 'slack' and unlikely to do veteran athletics where as, people who had not achieved what they wanted before veteran level and, perhaps not trained so hard, would be the one's who continued in the sport'
' People have asked me why I don't do veteran athletics. I have been to the Olympic Games, World Championships and Commonwealth Games and got medals. I have done it and no need to go back. For me it is finished. The one's who do that are still burning for something. I am not burning for it no more. I'll sit back and watch.'
There is a guy from the RAF called Greg Dunson who ran 14.7, winning the over 40 British Masters a couple of years ago, which was a very good performance and he had been RAF Champion for years and years!
' I have got a lot of respect for him. In my event I could not put myself through all the work as I used to. As soon as I hit the pain and there is no Championship!.....'
' I do give the veterans a lot of respect, still putting their bodies through it. I can't do that. I love the competing side of it and you just put me on the track and tell me to run. I still have the energy to do it BUT to go through all the training and slogwork. My body would rebel"