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Campbell begins his quest for gold medal

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Alan Campbell, Coleraine, is rowing in the men’s single scull event as part of the Great Britain team.

Alan Campbell, Coleraine, is rowing in the men’s single scull event as part of the Great Britain team.

Alan Campbell, Coleraine, is rowing in the men’s single scull event as part of the Great Britain team.

Coleraine man Alan Campbell is now ready to write his own Olympic history in Beijing and leave the sport’s giants - and the rest of the world - trailing in his wake.

After all the gruelling physical training and mental preparation, the single sculler will today begin his quest to climb onto the podium and grab that gold medal.

Campbell is the first British rower in action at 0750 BST and it will be interesting to discover whether or not his recent knee surgery will crush his Olympic dream.

The single scull final is next Saturday and the 25-year-old is confident of being on that start line for a shot at medal glory.

Ireland's lightweight four, which includes Richard Archibald, will be in action in their opening heats tomorrow while another Coleraine man, Richard Chambers, will row for Britain in the opening qualifier.

Other Irish hopefuls in action today include Ireland's heavyweight rowing four where they face a tough opening heat which includes Germany, France and Australia. The Irish need a top-three finish to progress to the semi-finals, which would avoid a repechage outing.

The rowing action begins in Shunyi and, for the first time since the Moscow Olympics in 1980, Britain’s rowing team contains neither Sir Steven Redgrave nor Matthew Pinsent.

But there is a new dynamic at work within the 43-strong team, Britain’s biggest Olympic rowing squad since the Barcelona Games in 1992. Unlike the Redgrave and Pinsent years, there is no lead boat with boss David Tanner convinced Britain boast "realistic medal chances" in all seven disciplines.

Great Britain are the only nation other Germany to win and then retain the rowing World Cup, having triumphed in each of the last two years. And there is a stiff determination within the camp to prove the UK Sport target of four Olympic medals, which would match the haul in Athens four years ago, was not nearly ambitious enough.

"We have a tradition in the Olympics to produce medals. That is our aim here," said Tanner.

"We are never cocky. We have seen through the World Cup season how difficult it is, even with last year’s gold medallists, and I am sure the competition here is going to be outstanding.

"We don’t have a Matthew Pinsent or a Steve Redgrave in the team. It is a change. But what we do have is a tremendous breadth of talent in all the rowing disciplines. We have never, for example, reached an A final in the lightweights and our women have never won a gold medal. I am

sure they will be targets this year. We won three medals in Sydney and four medals in Athens. In all disciplines we have realistic medal chances."

"The men’s four is the headline-grabbing crew and they, more than anyone else, are aware of the legacy cast by predecessors and former crew-mates."

Steve Williams was made an MBE after winning gold alongside Pinsent in Athens and it was in the men’s four that Redgrave clinched his historic fifth gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

"There is a sense of making new history and there is a sense of belonging to the GB team. That is the big picture from the outside," said Williams.

Belfast Telegraph