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I'm quitting after Rio Olympics to spend more time with my family: Alan Campbell

Steven Beacom

Published 29/07/2016

All smiles: Alan Campbell shows off his bronze medal from the London 2012 Games with the help of wife Jules, who will be cheering him on in Rio
All smiles: Alan Campbell shows off his bronze medal from the London 2012 Games with the help of wife Jules, who will be cheering him on in Rio
Making waves: Alan Campbell has had a stellar career and will become the first Northern Ireland sportsperson to compete at four Olympic Games

Northern Ireland's rowing hero Alan Campbell has revealed that he will race for the final time at the Olympic Games in Rio because he wants to spend more time with his wife Jules and two-year-old daughter Tabitha.

The Coleraine man will create history next month when he becomes the first Northern Ireland sportsperson to compete at FOUR Olympics and believes it will be a fitting way to end what has been a superb career.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, 33-year-old Campbell, who stole the nation's hearts at the 2012 London Olympics when weeping tears of joy on the podium as he collected his bronze medal, stated he had already lined up job interviews in the financial sector for September.

Campbell's first appearance at the Games was in Athens 2004 in the quadruple sculls before making his name in the single sculls event. For over a decade this bright, breezy and lively individual has been undertaking long, gruelling training sessions and travelling the world to take part in major competitions.

More: Alan Campbell hopes special link to Brazil will create a second 'home' Olympics

Since daughter Tabitha was born he admits he has found being away from home tougher than ever before.

"I adore fatherhood and spending time with my daughter," said the proud dad.

"I have found the last part of the build-up to Rio really hard being away from my wife and daughter. My little girl is getting to that stage now where she gets sad if I go away. I've just been back home for three days before we head off to Rio and she has stuck to me like glue.

"Being a dad is the best thing in the world and that is a big part of my decision not to continue after Rio. This will be my last Olympics.

"Being a father and husband means everything to me. I don't want to miss out on anything again. I want to be there and be part of it. That is going to be my priority after the Olympics."

While he may return to rowing in a coaching capacity in years to come, once the Olympics end Campbell will be preparing for another challenge... landing a new job.

There's also a graduation on the horizon, having completed an Open University degree.

"I want to do something a little different for a while and have been applying for jobs. I have a few interviews coming up in September in financial services," said Campbell, a winner of three World Championship medals.

"I have exams to sit then too and I also just passed my degree so I have my graduation to go to in the Waterfront Hall in Belfast on October 21.

"I did a business degree with the Open University and I got a 2:1 which I was really pleased about."

Asked where he found the time to fit all this in while preparing for the Olympics, Campbell smiled and said: "There's been a lot of late nights and it has been hard working around the family and rowing.

"Maybe there is a reason why my performance waned in the last four years because I put a lot on my plate but a lot of positive things have been happening lately so I'm feeling good about going to Rio."

One of those was winning a competition during a Team GB kit fitting in Birmingham for two tickets to the Olympics, allowing Alan to bring his long-time coach Bill Barry to Brazil.

"Bill, who coached me for years and was at my first three Olympics, wasn't actually going to come to these Games but I have been able to give him the tickets for Rio which was great," Campbell said.

"Things are on the up. I have been blessed. Mum and dad and their church group back home in Northern Ireland are praying for me and their prayers are working," he added with a chuckle.

Campbell's parents Jennifer and William will make the trip to Rio along with his wife Jules, whose mother will look after Tabitha.

Given what happened in London, Alan knows his final race could be just as emotional. The dream finish, of course, would be another medal for the big Rocky fan.

"I'm excited about the last race," said the former Coleraine Academical Institution pupil, who brilliantly describes what it takes to reach Olympic standard in his sport.

"It is the reason we live the life we do and why we do all the training. Parts of it are very glamorous but the fact is a lot of the time it is just hard graft.

"When it is cold and wet you still go training, you are aching at times, your muscles hurt and you are struggling to get out of bed. You do hard training sessions and your body feels wrecked, you are tired, you are grumpy and you can get moody and then you have to do more training after that!

"That is the darker side of what we do but then when you go to the Olympics and have that big race on the biggest stage against the best people in the world and be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with those people, that's what makes it all worthwhile. And that's what I'm excited about going to Rio.

"The training has all been about getting out there and delivering the best possible performance. Do that and I will be very satisfied whether I finish first or last. I doubt it will be last because my training has been going very well. I definitely think I am capable of being in the 'A' final and if you are in that final, half of those guys will win medals and the other three won't.

"I know from experience you have a real chance of getting a medal if you are in the top six.

"The way I'm looking at it is that I've 14 years of international experience and racing at the very highest level and I have a few more days to put on top of that. This is not about these last few days. It's about all the training I have done throughout the years, the three Olympics and it's about bringing it out to play and showing the best version of myself and what I can do.

"I want to leave myself with a personal legacy and the satisfaction that I gave it my best shot and that I produced my best race. I would be pleased about that and come away content.

"In London I sobbed like a little girl and of course I will be emotional in Rio when I have finished my event but I'm hoping the emotion will be one of happiness and feeling proud about what I've achieved.

"This is a celebration. I'm told I'll be the first Northern Ireland athlete to compete in four Olympics. That makes me feel extremely proud."

Belfast Telegraph

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