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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
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

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot