Alan Campbell sets his sights on a gold reward

 

While everyone else in Coleraine is doubtless preparing to paint the town red, the Royal Mail may yet be ordering a few cans of a very different hue.

“They told us if we win a gold we’ll get a gold postbox in the town,” Alan Campbell said today. “Hopefully, we’ll get three.”

The Ulsterman was speaking after an authoritative performance in his solo sculls quarter-final and moments before bolting to gain a vantage point as the men’s lightweight four — including two brothers from his home town, Richard and Peter Chambers — began their semi-final. And he shared the euphoria of an exuberantly partisan crowd as the British boat wore down their Swiss rivals in a thriller.

High time, perhaps, they stopped calling themselves Team GB and gave these men due acknowledgement as Team UK instead.

The Swiss gained a narrow lead with a strong start but it was neck and neck soon after halfway and the two crews flashed over the 1,500-metre line in unison. Roared on by the galleries, the Chambers brothers, Rob Williams and Chris Bartley gradually inched clear and the Swiss, spent by their brave effort, were hard pressed to hold off Holland for second place.

The winning time of 5min 59.68sec compared with 6min 3.53 sec by Denmark, winners the other semi-final.

Judging from his own experience, Campbell could have no doubt that his compatriots had been spurred by the swelling din of encouragement. “It’s phenomenal,” he said. “The last 750m today was just a wall of noise.

“They’re talking about empty seats at other venues— that’s because everyone is here! They’ve been like the Willy Wonka golden tickets. I wish I was a rock star and could get more of my friends and family backstage passes. Win or lose, I’ve got the best support.”

Campbell controlled his quarter-final throughout, clear by halfway and holding out by a comfortable length from Germany’s former world champion, Marcel Hacker. His time was quicker than both Mahe Drysdale and Ondrej Synek, in their quarters, though none will have been anxious to reach the bottom of the barrel with only 24 hours before the semi-final.

But if Drysdale and Synek remain favourites, on past meetings, Campbell is plainly on a roll. “I feel in very good form but I do have to keep a lid on it,” he said. “I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. When it comes to the final, the gloves come off.”

Both the other British boats on the water today made it through to their respective finals, though any ambition beyond a bronze looks fanciful.

Bill Lucas and Sam Townsend held on for the third qualifying spot in their double sculls semi-final, in the slowest time of six qualifiers, while the ladies’ eight only made it through by dint of a repechage that sieved out just one of five crews. The Germans obliged by soon dropping away but even those who finished clear of GB seem doomed as cannon fodder for the United States.

The British eight include Townsend’s fiancee, Natasha Page, who admitted: “I think we need to be a bit more gutsy, have a bit more belief. It’s a question of piecing it all together, and being a bit stricter on ourselves. But we’ll be giving it all we’ve got.”

Home crews apart, the loudest cheer was reserved for Hamadou Djibo Issaka, who wrote another chapter of his surreal Olympic adventure.

Christened “Issaka The Otter”, the 35-year-old novice oarsman from Niger again received rapturous encouragement as he trailed in a distant last in his final eliminator from the single sculls.

Issaka, who received his first rowing lesson only three months ago, was palpably feeling the effects of his first two races as he finished the 2,000 metres course in nine minutes 7.99 seconds — much his slowest time yet — having started out on Saturday in 8mins 25.56secs and faded to 8 mins 39.66secs on Monday.

But the galleries, having greeted a winner from Hong Kong with polite applause 83 seconds earlier, once again rose to roar home their increasingly laboured hero. Sir Steve Redgrave is not impressed but the organisers stress  Issaka was given a wild card in the Olympian spirit of inclusivity.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Arts and Entertainment
John Hurt will voice Prince Bolkonsky in Radio 4's War and Peace
radioRadio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Extras
indybest
News
i100
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game