For some Olympians, success takes a little while to sink in. When it came to rower Alan Campbell today, he did not stop apologising for winning a bronze medal until he saw footage of his mother screaming him to a medal finish.
The Ulsterman almost collapsed as he emerged from the race which saw him collect Britain’s first medal in 88 years in the single sculls when he drew on every fibre of his being to secure third place against a fast-closing Swedish opponent.
Campbell, 29, whose commitment to his sport is such that he is to be found out training on Christmas morning in the belief that it is a sacrifice his opponents would not make, initially found it difficult to grasp his success, telling a television interviewer he was sorry it was not gold.
But when reporters showed him a recording of his mother, Jenny, as she roared him across the finishing line, he finally accepted he had, after all, done rather well.
He said: "I'm really pleased it is another medal for Britain. I'm just so sore, I'm so tired. It was disappointing to come away from the last Olympics with nothing. I'm proud and I'm pleased for the crowd. They really lifted me. Knowing almost 100 per cent of the shouts were for me, I knew it was now or never to secure a medal."
Mrs Campbell, while noting her son’s lack of stature, was delighted. She said: "I told the crowd he could do this and he's done it. I just screamed the whole way, I was willing him on. I always thought he had it in him. He's not the tallest but it was a gutsy, gutsy performance."
The former Army cadet was, according to his mother, something of a dark horse when it came to recognition of his sporting prowess.
She said: "In primary school he didn't show any sporting potential, what he did show was tremendous enthusiasm for sport and tremendous determination to get into sport. He tried lots and lots of different sports - football, rugby, cricket, tennis, swimming, archery and volleyball. But he showed absolutely no potential and didn't have any success in any of them. Then when he was 13, on my suggestion, he went down to the river and tried rowing. And he's never looked back."
The Coleraine-born rower is just one of a succession of Team GB stalwarts who proved their worth on the waters of the town's River Bann. Brothers, Richard and Peter Chambers, who won a silver medal this week in the lightweight men’s four, are also from Coleraine.Reuse content