I was fat, ginger and bullied – there was no way I was taking my top off to learn to swim, says Corrie's Colson Smith

CORONATION Street star Colson Smith has revealed he couldn’t swim before taking part in ITV’s celebrity sporting challenge show The Games.

Millions of viewers saw the actor smash his personal best by more than ten seconds after competing in the 50m freestyle in the Olympic pool.

But Colson said his weight had got in the way of him ever learning as a child.

“When I took on The Games I couldn’t swim,” he confessed.

“As a kid I never wanted to be in a swimming pool. For me it was associated with humiliation.

“In school, with your top off, being fat, you don’t want to go swimming. Swimming was a big no-no.

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“Then I realised that I was going to have to do it for this show, so I had some swimming lessons before The Games’ swimming lessons started. I could do a doggy paddle, but I couldn’t swim a
length, so we progressed from there.

“If someone had said to me two years ago that I’d be competing in The Games, I wouldn’t have believed it, because I always put limits on myself.”

Colson, 23, started running daily and overhauled his diet at the start of the first lockdown and over a period of 18 months his weight has fallen from 22 stone to 12 stone.

Coronation Street had planned to feature his incredible 10 stone weight loss in a storyline for his character Craig Tinker.

But the idea had to be ditched when filming was halted because of lockdown.

He said: “We discussed it and I really wanted to do it. I thought it would be a good move for Craig.

“We were going to go down the route of him having a bit of workplace bullying, which led to the weight loss and then into deeper depths of eating disorder and body dysmorphia.”

Colson, whose character Craig is a policeman, added: “I think we’ve got Covid to blame for the lack of that story.

"It’s a shame, because it’s something that as an actor I would have loved to have played.

“Now, having been through that myself, and lived through the difficulties of it, I think it’s such an important story to tell, because it’s a taboo that boys don’t talk about. I’ve found it hard.

"Relationships with weight and with food just aren’t spoken about enough.”

Now Colson is taking part in The Games, a series of tough Olympic-style sporting challenges, including running, cycling and diving, which is going out live on ITV every night this week.

The 12 celebrities going head-to-head in events including the hammer throw and canoe slalom, include singer Max George, reality star Wes Nelson, former Strictly dancer Kevin Clifton, model
Christine McGuinness, Emmerdale actress Rebecca Sarker and actor Ryan Thomas.

Colson said the six-week training programme was tough.

“I was never a sporty kid and I was never good at PE and I kind of forgot that until I started training for The Games!” he admitted.

“I like to run and I like to go to the gym, but that doesn’t necessarily make me good at everything else, so, it was a bit of a shock to the system having to learn nine sports. I don’t take to things very

“All the other boys are incredibly talented. The standard is unbelievable and from what I’ve seen in training I think it’s going to be very close.”

Colson joined Coronation Street as Beth Tinker’s son Craig in 2011 when he was only 11 years old.

He fell into acting by chance when he started High School.

The actor, who grew up in Leeds, recalled: “I was the only kid to get picked up by a childminder. So, I went home and said to my Mum and Dad: ‘look, I’m fat, I’m ginger, I’m not going to a childminder, I’m already getting bullied enough. This is not happening.’

“They said that if I wouldn’t go to the childminder I needed to find something to do after school until they finished work.

“So, from then on, I just hung around in the drama department. I was given a leaflet about a local performing arts school.

“After the third week of the performing arts school, I had an agent and straight after that I was doing my first film in Wales. Six weeks later I was on Corrie. It happened really quickly.”

Colson was originally only meant to be in the show for two episodes. His mum Beth (Lisa George) couldn’t find a babysitter so took him along on a date at The Bistro with her old flame Steve McDonald (Simon Gregson).

The date was a disaster with Beth talking loudly non-stop and Craig remaining silent throughout the whole evening while staring creepily at Steve.

The pair were such a hit with viewers that bosses brought them back six months later moving them into No 13 Coronation Street with Craig’s pet rat Daryl.

Since then, Colson has featured in a range of storylines which has seen Craig suffer from OCD and recently find love with former jailbird Faye Windass.

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Off-screen for the past three years he has co-hosted the Sofa Cinema Club podcast, with his Coronation Street co-stars Jack P Shepherd (David Platt) and Ben Price (Nick Tilsley).

Meanwhile he recently made a documentary Bored of Being the Fat Kid, charting his dramatic weight loss.

He explained: “I did it because I hadn’t ever spoken about my weight loss. There was a lot of interest in it and I released the documentary so that my truth was out there forever.

“I never set out to do a transformation, I was just step by step changing my life and because I was living it, it seemed less dramatic to me.

“Obviously, during the pandemic, nobody was seeing anyone and I put a picture on Instagram one day and it blew up. Everyone was saying I looked so different.”

  • The Games is live at 9pm on ITV and ITV Hub

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