Athletics: Campbell back on track as relay team earn final shot

By Mike Rowbottom
Tuesday 24 December 2013 02:39

Darren Campbell returned yesterday to the track where his emotions had overflowed the previous night and helped earn a shot at a relay medal to set alongside the bronze he took in the 200 metres.

At the end of a night when his own feelings had fluctuated wildly as he finished in despair but then collapsed in relief after salvaging third place behind the event winner Frankie Fredericks, he spoke about the longstanding injury problems which had affected his personal life to the point where he had contemplated suicide six months ago.

Having separated from Claire, the mother of his three-year-old son Aaryn, he thought about driving his car into a wall shortly after visiting his child on Christmas Day. "I had to watch my son open his presents and then walk away," he recalled. "At Christmas I didn't want to live, let alone run. But not so long ago I met a friend of mine from Manchester who'd been shot at four times. He said to me: 'Do you think you're the only person who has thought about suicide?' And that put it in perspective.

"I love athletics with a passion. But when that is taken away from you and you cannot run healthily... that almost took away my life."

That life has been sweeter for the 28-year-old Olympic silver medallist since he got back together with his girlfriend six weeks ago, and his bronze on Monday night, three days after carrying the flag for the English team, was almost worth gold to him for the emotional weight it carried.

Yesterday Campbell anchored England's re-jigged 4x100m relay team into the final as it took second place in 39.06sec behind a strong-looking Nigerian quartet that recorded 38.95. Jamaica, winners of the other semi-final, also look a likely threat to a team missing the stricken 100m talents of Dwain Chambers and Mark Lewis-Francis.

Jason Gardener, the last Englishman standing in the individual race, utilised his smooth start to good purpose, handing on to 200m silver medallist Marlon Devonish, who in turn linked up with experienced relay man Allyn Condon. With Chris Lambert also on the scene, it is a team that still has a chance of winning in tonight's final night on the track.

England's 1,500m runners set out in their semi-finals on a track gleaming with rain after the storms which caused the men's pole vault, women's high jump and women's discus to be delayed because of the threat of lightning.

For the women in particular there was much to live up to after the outstanding performances produced in Monday's 800m final, where the 17-year-old Charlotte Moore and Jo Fenn both dipped under the two minute mark.

Helen Pattinson, who had run a personal best of 4min 01.10sec in Monaco 10 days earlier, ran capably to finish a close third behind Kenya's reigning champion Jackline Maranga and Hayley Tullett of Wales, while Kelly Holmes, who chose to concentrate on the longer distance here, gave indication that she will be a force to reckon with in today's final as she won her semi in 4:11.27sec.

The way the Olympic bronze medallist pumped her right fist as she came through the line well clear of the rest gave an indication of the importance she attaches to an event where she won gold in Victoria eight years ago and silver behind Maranga four years later.

"The 800 metres was fantastic, especially the way the English girls ran," Holmes said. "I've had itchy feet waiting to get out onto the track, and it's so nice to be running injury-free and enjoying my running once again."

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