Chambers brothers won medals and people’s hearts
Published 04/08/2012 | 08:00
Remember that flotilla to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee on the Thames? Well, get ready Coleraine Council officials because you should be organising one for the heroic Chambers brothers and Alan Campbell.
Campbell was due to row today in the Olympic Single Sculls final hoping to go one better than Richard and Peter Chambers who claimed a silver medal after a breathtaking battle in the final of the lightweight four.
Peter, for one, told me he would be happy to row down the River Bann proudly wearing his silver medal.
I'm not sure this modest young man would want a fleet of boats behind him, Richard and Alan, like Her Majesty, but they deserve it.
Portrush has the golf and major champions. Coleraine has the rowing and Olympic heroes.
And believe me, these three are superheroes, different in character, but all genuinely good guys blessed with incredible talent, desire and determination, who are a credit to their families and outstanding ambassadors for Northern Ireland.
Yesterday Richard and Peter were under the spotlight.
And the siblings shone brighter than they have ever done before.
Richard, a double world champion, is the older one at 27, married to Abi with a nine month old son Joshua.
He competed in the Beijing Olympics after studying Construction Management at Oxford Brookes University in Oxford.
This after Richard, when he was 15, took up a rowing to keep fit at Coleraine Academical Institution under the guidance of coach Bobby Platt, MBE.
He'd like to be a coach when he finishes rowing. He seems to have patience and certainly has the knowledge to be a good one.
Peter is five years younger and last year earned the coveted George Best Breakthrough prize at the prestigious Belfast Telegraph Sports awards after becoming a world champion in lightweight pairs.
He studied Sports Science at Oxford Brookes University before deferring to focus on the rowing which he took up at 13 at Bann Rowing club under coach Seamus Reynolds.
These two brothers in arms may be among the best rowers in the planet, but never before has their sport captured the imagination of everyone back in
their home country as it has over the last week.
Filled with pride Richard spoke about his old church at home showing the final on a big screen.
Got to tell you folks, the fervour is spectacular over here too.
Yesterday waiting for the final to start, the Chambers boys and their team-mates Chris Bartley and Rob Williams were greeted with an almighty roar when introduced to 30,000 British fans, with just about every one of them frantically waving a Union flag.
As the Chambers boys raced by each section of the stand left their seats creating an unknowing Mexican wave.
It was a marvellous sight, to be followed by the heartbreaking scene of witnessing the strong South Africans inching past our heroes to win gold.
There was a guy called Matthew Brittain in the South Africa four. Our Brits beaten by their Brittain. The gut-wrenching irony.
“To now be in with other Northern Ireland sporting stars who have won Olympic medals is incredible,” said Richard after collecting his silver.
“To be even mentioned in the same breath as people like Mary Peters is mind-blowing.”
After His Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, heir to the Danish throne and a keen sportsman put medals around the neck the 12 rowers carried their flowers off into their boats — later mum Gillian and Richard's wife Abi would be handed the bouquets — and float away with the British boys cheered as if they had just won gold before making it back to dry land.
It's all part of this regatta's charm.
Sitting in the distant gaze of Windsor Castle, the Eton Dorney Rowing Centre, which is actually Eton College's boating lake, is a fun place to spend an Olympic week.
I never thought I'd look forward to watching rowing day in day out but it's been a blast.
Thanks to the Chambers brothers and Alan Campbell for that.
Make sure we thank them when they return once the Olympics is over. Get that flotilla organised. The boys will bring the medals.