Series25 Jan 2016

First impressions – Bershawn Jackson


USA's Bershawn Jackson in the 400m hurdles at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 (© Getty Images)

USA’s Bershawn Jackson won the Diamond Race in the 400m hurdles last year. The two-time world champion reflects on some firsts in his career both on and off the track.

First race

I was aged seven competing at a summer track youth development meet in a park down the street in my home city of Miami, Florida. I recall running the 100m on an asphalt track with no shoes on. I was ecstatic when I won the race.

First sport

I played several sports when I was younger; basketball, (American) football and baseball, but baseball was my first sport. I played left field and first base and I had a good throwing arm. I also had good hand-eye coordination. I had the choice of pursuing track or baseball but chose track because it was the one sport that enabled me to travel around the world for free. I remember competing at the 2002 World Junior Championships in Jamaica and a youth track meet in the Bahamas. It was great.

First media interview

I recall both Sanya Richards-Ross and I were interviewed by the Miami Herald when I was a junior at high school ahead of the Florida State Championships. I was so nervous I didn’t know what to say. It was hilarious. I gave really basic answers like, ‘how do you feel about the race? Good. How do you feel? Good’. Looking back, I’m glad the journalist spiced it up to make me look a little better.

First fashion disaster

I’ve had a few of those, but I recall in my senior year at high school doing a photoshoot for Florida Elite magazine. I had on some very long boxer shorts, which were so long they were hanging outside of the pants. So I did a photoshoot with the magazine with my boxers hanging out. It was so embarrassing.

First overseas athletics trip

My first trip abroad (as a professional) was to Crete in 2003 and that first overseas trip was one of the worst experiences I have ever had. My luggage never arrived in Crete after it was left in New York. It only then arrived in Crete a few days after I left the island to move on to Rome and several other meets. At the end of my European trip I flew out of London Heathrow Airport, but the baggage handlers were on strike, so I had no bag. I was aged only 20 with a small carry-on bag and a portable DVD player. I had no cell phone and no credit card. I spent a day and a half in the airport like this before the flight left. I was scared, nervous and out of town with no money. I was very upset. I had to explain what had happened and, thankfully, I received a voucher to get something to eat. The first thing I did when I got home was buy a cell phone and get a debit card.

First thing you learned to cook

My grandma taught me to make scrambled eggs when I was six years old. No one can mess up eggs.

First car

It was a 1989 Toyota Camry bought for me by my uncle. The car was holding on by a thread. I think it was slowly dying, but I really appreciated having it. The first car I bought for myself was a 2004 Nissan Maxima. I still have that to this day. It is sentimental to me and I’m never going to sell it.

First pet

A yorkshire terrier dog called Robin. I bought him 13 years ago and I still have him today.

First athletics disappointment

My first real disappointment came at the 2012 Olympic Trials when I finished fourth. I had never been so hurt in my life after a race and the disappointment almost sabotaged my career because I was mentally done for the next two seasons. It was only last year (2015) when I felt I had fully recovered from the disappointment.

Steve Landells for the IAAF