As you might expect, those responsible for publicising the Commonwealth Games, which begin in Manchester next month, have made much use of an Olympic medallist who was born and brought up in the tough Moss Side area.
Darren Campbell has responded to his native city's demands with great patience in a year when he has been struggling to recapture the form that saw him take a 200 metres silver medal in Sydney the summer before last.
He has supported Games events several times at the new stadium, which he describes as "beautiful''. But one thing Campbell wasn't prepared to do was step on to the track. "I am too superstitious to do that,'' he said yesterday at the Bedford International Stadium after playing his part in a British 100 metres relay victory in 39.21 sec.
The performance effectively confirmed the quartet – Jason Gardener, Campbell, Christian Malcolm and Dwain Chambers -- as Britain's choice for the European Cup later this month and, injury permitting, the European Championships in August.
Of the four who ran yesterday Gardener looked in outstandingly sharp form. Campbell, who returned to racing in March after a year out with injury, knows he has much hard work to do if he is to live up to the expectations of the old friends he still keeps up with when he goes back to visit his mum, Marva, in Manchester.
"I was there last week and they were all talking about the Commonwealths and saying 'You'd better win'."
So no pressure there then. But if the task ahead is difficult, Campbell appears ready for the struggle.
One man who knows better than any other the depth of Campbell's commitment is his coach Linford Christie, who was at Bedford to supervise his charge. "Darren is very aware of running in Manchester,'' Christie said. "He's talked about it often and it means a lot to him. Mentally he's pretty good and he's feeling strong. We need him to qualify and then we can start doing our speed work.''
Just over a year ago life looked better than ever for Campbell as he prepared to follow his Olympic success at the World Championships. But then a leg injury, the root cause of which he now believes may have been a car crash in December 2000 that left him with a badly jarred back, ended his season before it had got properly underway. "I was going so well, I believed I would have gone sub-10 for the 100 and sub-20 for the 200,'' Campbell said. "But it didn't work out. So now I am getting back to the basics and building it up again.
"I'm ahead of where I was in the Olympic year and as long as I can get to the Commonwealth Games injury-free I will be giving it everything.''
Campbell made a quick exit from here to catch a flight to Milan, where he plans to do 100m tonight before moving on to Turin for another 100m sharpener on Friday night. "It's been an uphill battle this year,'' he said: "But I believe I am getting there.''
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