Belfast Telegraph

Rowing for gold as as Northern Ireland stars aim for world glory

By Nigel Ringland

Alan Campbell can achieve a lifetime’s dream and become world champion tomorrow in the men’s single sculls.

It will be around seven minutes of agony in what promises to be a gladiatorial battle in the final on Lake Karapiro in New Zealand.

Since making his Great Britain senior debut in 2004, the Coleraine sculler has improved year on year but really had a breakthrough result when he clinched the silver medal at last year’s world championships in Poland.

Now he has left nothing to chance in trying to go one better; the question is can he?

“Definitely,” he said after Thursday’s semi-final win when he left two-time Olympic champion Olaf Tufte from Norway in his wake.

“I feel in my mind that I can, I feel good, I feel strong and I feel I’ve got what it takes to win.

“I think I’ve prepared very, very well and I’ve got a great coach in Bill Barry and a great support team around me, so everything is in place.

“I will put up my best performance, there’s no doubt about that, my best performance will come out in the final.”

Campbell has been looking forward to taking on local favourite and four-time world champion Mahe Drysdale in his own back yard from the moment the Kiwi held of his challenge 14 months ago.

Both men will have to look out for the star of 2010 so far, Ondrej Synek from the Czech Republic, who has the ability to beat them both.

“Earlier in the year at the first world cup in Slovenia, Ondrej sort of let me win the semi-final and then gave me a lesson in true sculling in the final.

“I think there will be more to come from him, more to come from Mahe and there’s still plenty more to come from me.

“I feel the real winners will be the spectators who are watching it because it will be a great spectacle to see and I can’t wait to be part of such a great race that will probably be one of the most heavily contested in the history of the single sculls.”

Campbell reckons he rows around 9,000km a year and spends 200 hours in the weight room and around 50 hours of cross training.

It’s around six hours a day in total dedication to the ultimate goal — to be the best in the world.

“It's a quality field here. Steve Redgrave said it before so I'm going to say it here, too. I want to win gold.”

Richard Chambers knows what the feeling is like to be a world champion; he was part of the Great Britain lightweight four that won the title three years ago in Munich.

They couldn’t emulate that achievement in the Beijing Olympics, finishing fifth in the final, and Chambers was forced to sit out all of 2009 with a back injury.

Now, along with Paul Mattick, Rob Williams and Chris Bartley they are favourites for gold after a terrific season that has seen them win the World Cup series and qualify comfortably for the final.

But Chambers has warned that the Chinese team’s status as the new kids on the block makes them dangerous opponents in the battle to hit the top of the podium.

Chambers says: “We’ve raced and beaten everyone this season except the Chinese who have come out of nowhere and are an unknown quantity and we are going to have to watch them.

“There is a lot of strength in depth in the event and you have to work so hard to make the final and if you get there you can take confidence that you are the best in the world in lightweight rowing.

“We want nothing less than gold. Silver or bronze doesn’t matter to us. We train to win and that’s all we’re going out to do.”

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