THIS IS MY TIME

Alan Campbell enjoys a training session at Eton Dorney. Photo-William Cherry/Presseye
Alan Campbell enjoys a training session at Eton Dorney. Photo-William Cherry/Presseye

“Chariots of Fire” immortalized the Olympic story of Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell and their gold medal winning performances on the track in the 1924 Games in Paris.

Not so well known is that on the River Seine the men’s single sculls in the rowing regatta was won by Great Britain’s Jack Beresford.

The significance of that result is that’s the last time a British man won the gold medal.

Coleraine’s Alan Campbell is aiming to end that barren run at Eton Dorney.

Campbell will be competing in his third Olympics, as a 21 year-old he made his debut in Athens as a member of the quadruple sculls before he took on the unique challenge of the single sculls, a lonely existence that was even beyond the great Sir Steve Redgrave.

Pre-Games illness before Beijing scuppered his medal chances although, amazingly, his determination saw him finish fifth in the final.

Now perhaps is his moment to shine.

“It’s been a long journey but now I just don’t want to be a three-time Olympian, I want to be an Olympic medalist this and so this being my third time its not a case of making up the numbers.

“Not that I felt that before but I was very young in Athens and I wasn’t expected to get into the team at that point. It had come earlier than expected and so it was really exciting and special to be in the team at that point.”

He added: “In Beijing I was breaking new ground in the single sculls at that point because it was back in 1924 when we last won a gold medal in the single and it was 1928 when we won any sort of medal in the event so its been a long time coming.

“Going into Beijing everything was looking good but unfortunately I had the illness, the knee infection and that was hugely disappointing.

“This time round its not the case of the pressure being on but the expectations are definitely higher especially having won medals at the last three world championships and this time I’m there for a medal and I definitely feel I have the possibility of winning that gold medal as well.”

Campbell has a silver medal and two bronzes from the three world championships between Beijing and London.

In fact all nine medals available have been shared between just three men, the other two being his biggest rivals Mahe Drysdale from New Zealand and Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic.

Campbell has beaten them both in world cups but never on the biggest stage and this season his form in the three warm-ups regattas has been sketchy although none of that really matters heading into the Olympic regatta.

“These Olympics are obviously quite unique for us as British athletes because of the fact they’re a home Olympics and so there have been slightly different pressures and slightly more unique circumstances.

“But I think I just have to make sure that I stay really calm, really relaxed and focus on myself and the processes and not get too involved in everything that is going on outside but be lifted by the fact that its not just me and my boat going into competition but I’m part of the whole team and the pride of a nation.

“But everyone else has prepared extremely hard for these Games, it’s not just the British team and the competition is very, very stiff.”

Campbell explains: “Take my event for example, Mahe Drysdale believes he would have won the gold medal in Beijing had it not been for his illness he suffered that week and I believe I would have done a lot better but for the knee infection so he’s very determined from that.

“Ondrej Synek is very determined because he’s in the form of his life and producing the best results of his life so those guys want to do something really big but they don’t have the expectations of a nation expecting a gold medal and that’s what is different.”

If Campbell wins gold it’s unlikely it will inspire an Oscar winning film. But that doesn’t bother him.

“I’m not doing the race in order to get recognition or to have that life changing moment. I’m very happy with my life as it is. I’m married to the girl of my dreams, I have fantastic parents and I have a great support network and I wouldn’t want to change anything.

“What I would hope is that I would be able to help those around me. I’m very lucky with the opportunities that rowing has given me and if I could give back something to those guys starting out and have my success be inspirational to others then that’s what I would like.”