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Monday, 29 July, 2002, 21:20 GMT 22:20 UK

Jackson steps from the shadow

By Charlie Henderson
BBC Sport Online in Manchester

Kanukai Jackson's victory in the individual all-around final is only England's second gold in the event at the Commonwealth Games.

In claiming the title the 24-year-old emulated Neil Thomas, who won in Victoria, Canada, eight years ago.

Jackson is making a habit of following in Thomas' footsteps.

Two years ago the Telford-based gymnast qualified in sixth position for the vault at the European Championships and finished eighth in the final.

The achievement made him the first British male since Thomas to reach an individual apparatus final at a World or European championship.

But Jackson is not drawing comparisons between himself and one of the legends of British gymanstics.

"It's difficult to compare us," he mused. "We're different gymnasts in different eras.

"I would love to win two [world] silver medals - but I don't think they will be on the floor," he joked.

In the all-around competition the floor was Jackson's weakest rotation.

All-around scores
Floor: 8.800
Pommel horse: 9.100
Rings: 9.500
Vault: 9.600
Parallel bars: 9.200
High bar: 8.825

But that apart, he excelled until a conservative, professional programme on the high bar which sealed his gold in the sixth rotation.

Jackson was the leading scorer on rings, the vault and the parallel bars.

His achievement in qualifying for the European final came at a crucial time in his athletic development.

Like many gymnasts, the circus came calling and Jackson faced a decision.

But instead of taking the pot of money he decided to stick to chasing the ultimate prize, gold medals.

"I was offered the chance," he confirmed. "I considered it because I was having problems with injuries and felt I had given all I could to gymnastics.

"But I spoke to a few people and decided to stay in gymnastics. Winning vault bronze at the European Championships and gold here proved I had more to give."

Jackson may have a "serious look" at making the move at a later date but at the moment is happy to be part of a successful set up that is reaping the benefits of hard work.

"We've all moved on a step," he said of the team spirit and ethic within the England camp.

"Everybody is more consistent and we want to achieve good results as much as improve personal performances. It's all snowballing."

That viewpoint helps to explain why he puts winning the team gold above winning the individual.

"The team is more important," he declares immediately, clearly subscribing to the mantra that 'there's no 'i' in team'.

"It's a high pressure competition in which you don't want to let anyone else down. The individual is more fun."

"I've had a great competition - I'm ahead of schedule"
Kanukai Jackson

Having come back from torn cruciates in 1998 when he was worried about his future in the sport, Jackson is now at the pinnacle in national terms.

He was the only gymnast at the Games to qualify for all six individual finals.

And although he failed to maintain his impressive form and claim a gold that would have taken his tally to three - a feat Thomas never achieved at the Games - the future looks bright.

"I was disappointed not to win gold on the vault or a medal on the rings but I've had a great competition," he said of his two golds and two silvers.

"At the start of the year I set out with a plan to make the European on vault, win a medal here and make a world final.

"I'm ahead of schedule having won a bronze at the Europeans and four medals here."


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