Interview with TV presenter Charlotte Jackson

12 March 2013

When it comes to sports injuries, TV presenter Charlotte Jackson could write a book. The Sky Sports News star has broken more bones than most including; dislocated jaw and broken nose (water-skiing); collarbone (fell off a chair at 2); arm and wrist (horse-riding); ribs (boxing); fingers (lacrosse); ankle (skiing). But her latest fractures – yes there two of them, came in her right big toe when she was training for ITV's Splash!

ITV’s Saturday night show that captured over 6 million viewers and has already been re-commissioned for a second series. Diving is suddenly all the rage and swimming pools are reporting a massive increase in participation. And Charlotte is walking, well hobbling proof, that it is a tough, tough sport.

Charlotte Jackson competing in ITV's Splash!
 
“Diving is so punishing on the body. I had absolutely no idea how hard it would be when they asked me to do it. The opportunity to be mentored by Tom Daley and his Olympic staff was just too good to miss, so I jumped at it. But I would come out of training sessions covered in bruises. If you enter the water at the wrong angle it really does cause damage, because from the high board, you are probably travelling at 30-40 mph. I had dives where I landed on my face, side, hip and back and it hurt a lot, because your body just isn’t used to it. But Tom Daley told me that even he still feels the punishment at his level, so that made me feel slightly better!”

She admits with a grin, that since doing the show she can at least feel confident about diving competently on holiday. But a genuine dislike of heights was another major,  motivating factor in accepting the challenge and she confesses it was the Olympic bronze medalist who helped her overcome that fear.

“Tom was amazing to work with. So inspiring and motivating too. The first time I went up to the 10m board I was very apprehensive and he came with me. Just looking over the edge was terrifying, so we agreed I would just jump in first. Tom suggested that we jump in together and hold hands to make me feel more comfortable, so we did. But halfway down he had to shout at me to let go, because if we’d hit the water still holding hands, the impact would have dislocated our shoulders! Luckily I let go in time!”

Interview with Charlotte Jackson

But she wasn’t quite so lucky when she sustained a double toe fracture early in training. It happened in the dry diving area and Jackson knew immediately the damage she’d done.

“They put you in a harness and you can dive into a ball pool or over a crash mat, to help you co-ordinate any somersaults and turns. I was really keen to try and incorporate stuff into my dives, so I had just finished a turn when I knew I was going to hit the floor with my foot. I tried to pull out of it, but my toes hit the mat and I heard it crack. I’ve broken so many bones I knew straight away it was a fracture.

“Because I’d arrived on the show a bit later than everyone else, I didn’t want to miss any training. So I went straight to the pool afterwards and tried diving, but my toe went into spasm. The physio popped it back in place for me, just like Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon! But it hurt so much, I knew I would need to get it seen to.”

Despite being advised to quit the show and with the help of a special plaster, Jackson managed to dive her way into the semi-finals, but frustratingly the injury meant she was forced to keep it simple in terms of the dives she was able to perform from the 10m board. It meant her competitive journey ended there, although the experience has certainly fired her enthusiasm and admiration for the sport and prompted many others to take the plunge.

“Since the show participation numbers have shot up for diving and it’s fantastic,” she explained. “Pools and diving pools have been booked out. I know that Tom really wanted people to see how hard the sport was, but also to encourage them to give it a go and I am thrilled they are doing just that.”

It was also a good platform, sorry forgive the pun, for Charlotte to impress viewers with her all-round sports ability and she too did just that. But as well as plaudits and critical acclaim for her talent, the semi-final also brought one of those horror moments that most women have nightmares about….. a wardrobe malfunction.

Charlotte Jackson competing in ITV's Splash!

“Everyone feels self conscious in a swimming costume or a bikini, but at least on the beach you can normally get away with it. On Splash! it was even more nerve-wracking because of all the cameras you had on you all the time. And you were really nervous when you got out of the pool, because you wanted everything to still be there, so to speak.

“So I had extra elastic put into my bikini bottoms, because I was so terrified they would come off when I hit the water. But after one of my dives in the semi-final they did come off, right down to my ankles! It was an awful moment, but fortunately I realized before I got out of the pool.”

Happily the horror of that particular memory is fading, as is the nagging pain from the broken toe. Not that she has had too much time to think about it, because it was straight from the pool back to work at Sky HQ in Isleworth. But rest assured she won’t be able to sit still for long, such is her love of all things sporty. It was inherited from her mum Chris, a sports teacher who played lacrosse for England and tennis at junior Wimbledon.

“I played lacrosse and tennis like my mum when I was younger, although I only made it to county level (Hampshire). But I love exercise, I always have. I go to the gym regularly and I’ve been on the cross-trainer a lot since filming Splash! while I wait for my toe to get completely better. But in terms of general health and fitness I run a lot and have also done a sprint triathlon.”

Indeed such is her love of lacrosse, she is also keen to remind us all that the Lacrosse Women’s World Cup will be held in England in 2017. Something tells me she will be there, involved and knowing her, sporting a bandage or a limp with enormous pride.                                                                                                       

Read more about lacrosse in Sue Thearle's blog post - 'Anyone for a quick game of lacrosse?'

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