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Silver lining for Irish brothers but no joy for Coleraine man Campbell

By Robert Jones

Published 13/08/2016

Devastated: Alan Campbell says he is gutted after not making the single sculls final
but can hold his head high after giving it his all in Rio
Devastated: Alan Campbell says he is gutted after not making the single sculls final but can hold his head high after giving it his all in Rio
Ireland's Gary O'donovan (L) and Paul O'donovan pose with their medals on the podium after the LWT Men's Double Sculls final rowing competition in Rio

Alan Campbell insists he has no regrets after falling just short in his bid to make a fourth Olympic final in Rio. After winning single sculls bronze in London, Campbell took time to decide whether to commit to another punishing Olympic cycle.

He felt his life was at a crossroads, especially as he was rapidly approaching his 30th birthday. Perhaps it was time to step away from the boat and - in his words - "get a real job".

He came to Rio for a training session in 2013 with coach Bill Barry, just to make that final decision.

And, as he powered across the Lagoa with Rio's most stunning vistas as a backdrop, he decided on one last crack.

However, after placing fourth in his semi-final yesterday, he admitted the last chapter of his impressive sporting career - which also includes three World medals - did not read how he'd like.

"I'm just gutted and devastated not to get through," he said.

"Unfortunately there are some things that have happened and I've been dealing with, that are outside my control. They are things I'd rather not discuss right now but they've made things hard.

"I did everything I could do but it wasn't good enough. That's the nature of sport and sometimes it doesn't go your way. It's been a huge commitment from myself and my family so I'm disappointed for myself and them.

"However, I'm very proud of my career and my performances and to be here for a fourth Olympics. Tomorrow my life begins again and I've got no regrets because I couldn't have done any more in this race."

Campbell, now 33, is already planning for the future - and can't wait to return to Northern Ireland to see his wife and daughter.

This may be his final row but he's determined to put to use his 10 years of elite sport, which will always be remembered for his medal in London, Team GB's first single sculls podium place since 1928.

"I've got job interviews in September and if anyone wanted to offer me a well paid job then I'm available," he joked.

"I'd like to get into developing business leaders because there are so many parallels between sport and business. Management is a science but leadership is an art form.

"I knew I needed a plan for after this. It was apparent to me after 2012 because I had quite a few friends who retired, intelligent guys with good degrees who perhaps hadn't thought too much about what happens after the Olympics and struggled to get work.

"It's a very tough and competitive market, especially with the economy how it is, so I've been thinking a lot about what I do next and my life after sport, especially with a young family to support.

"I'm ready for the next challenge now, life doesn't stop - it starts."

Elsewhere, Great Britain enjoyed a golden day at the Lagoa as the men's four triumphed at a fifth straight Olympics while Helen Glover and Heather Stanning retained their women's pair crown in style.

Alex Gregory, Mohamed Sbihi, George Nash and Constantine Louloudis extended the winning streak, that started with Sir Steve Redgrave's fifth and final gold at Sydney 2000, by holding off Australia to triumph by 1.83 seconds.

Gary and Paul O'Donovan made history in securing Ireland's first medal of Rio 2016 as lightweight men's doubles silver represented the country's first ever Olympic rowing medal. On a wet morning at the Lagoa, the Cork brothers shone with a fine performance that brought with it a deserved podium spot.

The O'Donovans produced the race of their life, with their trademark strong finish seeing them come from fifth at the halfway mark to win silver in six minutes, 31.23 seconds.

"We set ourselves the goal of winning the Olympics in Rio," older brother Gary said.

"At the same time we knew we had to beat one of the best doubles there's ever been in France.

"We've been training our best to have what we can to put ourselves in the position to win. We're very, very happy to come away with the silver medal."

The European champions have captured the imagination in Rio de Janeiro, where their post-race interviews have racked up millions of hits.

Quotes like "close the eyes and pull like a dog" have put a smile on people's faces, so too their fine displays on the water.

"These guys over here have been racing together for about four years," Gary said.

"Paul and I only came together about two years ago. We had a national trial and Paul was really good in his single.

"Paul finished first and I finished second in that trial and we came together in a double and our goal was to win a national championship."

The duo certainly have fun and enjoy what they are doing, with the Skibbereen siblings making the most of their time in Brazil. "We're almost like the same person," Paul said. "We've spent so long together the past years."

The boys clearly had Belfast boxer Michael Conlan in their corner as well as Paul said: "We're going to go home now because Michael Conlan said he'd box the heads off us if we didn't win gold!"

Aldi is the first Official Supermarket partner of Team GB and has been championing our nation's extraordinary athletes on their Road to Rio and encouraging the public to tuck into fresh, affordable, Great British food. For more information visit aldi.co.uk

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