Track Academy to revel in journalist Colin’s fascinating athletics memories
Young athletes at Track Academy by Connie Henry in Willesden are set to be inspired by veteran sports journalist Colin Hart, as he shares memories of nearly 50 years of athletics.
The 82-year-old will mine his vast experience of the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and World Championships for a series of quarterly articles for the Track Academy website, starting in July.
And what experience he has, having cut his teeth as a journalist in 1958 on the Daily Herald, becoming their sports reporter in 1962. He then took a role as boxing correspondent for The Sun, and started covering athletics in 1969 until his retirement three decades later.
Colin, who still writes fortnightly boxing columns for The Sun, explained: “I’ve covered eight Olympic Games, and was there for the inaugural World Championships in Helsinki in 1983. With the championships coming up in London this summer, my first article will go back through the history of these games.”
The grandfather-of-four, who lives in Harrow with wife Cindy, said the first World Championships was a particular highlight. In that year, American Carl Lewis sprinted his way to three gold medals, while Czech athlete Jarmila Kratochvílová secured a still-unbeaten world record in the 400 metres.
“It sounds like a cliché, but the atmosphere was electric, the best you could hope for,” said Colin, whose career took him around the world covering such boxing greats as Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and Sugar Ray Leonard.
Readers can also be assured of some behind-the-scenes anecdotes, too. “During the World Championships in Stuttgart in 1993, Sally Gunnell gave an interview where she said her favourite meal was Peking duck. My editor had an idea to fly some over from Chinatown in London, for me to bring to her in the athletes’ village.
“Now, you weren’t supposed to argue with the editor, but I did. I explained that not only would the duck need accreditation to get into the village, Stuttgart had half a dozen Chinese restaurants of its own. Plus Sally Gunnell could hardly run on a belly full of Peking duck! So that idea was shelved.”
Colin’s connection with Track Academy comes from a long-standing friendship with its founder, former Commonwealth Games medallist Connie Henry. “We have been firm friends for around 15 years now,” said Colin. “We met when she moved into journalism and we hit it off straightaway. Though she’s never let me forget that I didn’t report on her medal win!”
He added: “Connie is doing an absolutely fantastic job at Track Academy; it’s going from success to success because of her determination. She’d go through a brick wall to get what she needs for the kids she’s helping. I wouldn’t do this for anyone but Connie.”
Track Academy is a registered charity which uses sport for social change among young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Based at the Willesden Sports Centre in Donnington Road, academy members are given inspiration to succeed both on and off the track.
Alongside athletics coaching, they attend education sessions to help them gain qualifications, encouraging them to carve out fulfilling lives away from negative influences.
Connie said: “What a coup to have such a renowned journalist as Colin Hart writing for Track Academy. I am a firm believer that the generation of today are at their best when they are inspired and mentored by established genius, and that is what Harty brings to us!
“Of course, there was a little bit of emotional blackmail as he didn’t write about my Commonwealth Games bronze medal! But, in truth, he was happy to support our charity and understands the great work we do. I look forward to reading the amazing stories that very few people on the planet would be able to tell. Thanks, Colin.”