Colin Jackson has been in the public eye since his teenage years, when a phenomenal athletic prowess was first identified at Birchgrove Harriers, the club nearest his home on the outskirts of Cardiff.

The former 110m hurdles world record holder has been clearing barriers with rare skill ever since but revealing his sexuality to the world earlier this week was an obstacle sized up more carefully than ever.

The Swedish LGBT former athletes Kajsa Bergqvist and Peter Häggström, who interviewed Jackson, were not the first to ask. In fact, Jackson – now a BBC pundit and presenter – had twice publicly denied he was gay: in a 2004 autobiography and a 2008 newspaper interview.

But he said the circumstances felt right to come out aged 50 in a TV interview, more than a decade since a tabloid kiss-and-tell forced him to reveal the fact to his parents.