Life

Weekend Q&A: Rower Alan Campbell, Northern Ireland's most 'Olympified' athlete

Alan Campbell (38) is a rower from Coleraine who won silver in the London Olympics, attended three other Games, and now lives in Henley-on-Thames with his wife Juliet and daughter Tabitha. He works in financial services.

Alan Campbell in action during the Beijing Olympics in 2008
Jane Hardy

How do you unwind at the weekend?

I'm watching the Olympics now, and am so so chuffed for the guys who have just won silver in the men's sculling. When I was in training as an athlete, I didn't get days off. You had one Sunday off every month. When I retired after the Rio Olympics in 2016, it came as a shock to have weekends. To be honest, I unwound by mainly navel gazing, TV and so on. But I do take our daughter Tabitha out, not yet on the river, but she plays rugby as we have a great kids' team attached to our Henley Hawks team. We also take our rescue British bulldog Emerald out when we go on a bike ride. As a kid, I had two left feet at school and nobody then would have thought I'd get to the Olympics. But I am the most 'Olympified' Northern Irish athlete - I am thinking of patenting the term - having attended four Olympics: Athens, Beijing, London and Rio. I keep my medal in my sock drawer, by the way, but it's good to know I have it.

What do you recall most about weekends growing up?

I used to go off to the woods around Coleraine with my friends, sometimes near the ancient fort that is supposed to be the giant's bed, as old as the Giant's Causeway. I'd come back covered in mud. Later as a teenager, I was in the Boys' Brigade, went to youth club and did lots of sport but I was almost always the one picked last for the team. I wanted to be a drummer in a rock band but discovered I wasn't very good. When I saw Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent row in the Atlanta Olympics, I knew that's what I wanted to do. They rowed the day after the bomb went off and it wasn't sure they would compete but they did, got gold and were heroes.

Are you Friday night or Saturday night?

I'd be a Saturday night guy. I like to get the movie on, get the curry out and if we go to a party or for a bit of a boogy, it's on Saturday night. When I was in training, I didn't go out or drink alcohol for 18 months, I was so focused on the Olympics. Everybody who makes it to the Olympics has made sacrifices, and we should celebrate everyone's achievement.

Do you have a must-listen radio show or podcast?

The High Performance podcast, which interviews leaders from every sport.

Is there a TV programme or Netflix you watch?

I couldn't keep my eyes off The Last Dance. Tiger King was a pandemic must-see. I've also been catching up with Suits, and Meghan is good in it.

Is Sunday still special?

Yes, it's still a day of rest. When I get back to Coleraine I go to the Presbyterian Church in Garvagh with my mum and dad. Here in England we don't have the connection with church but the day is special and I used to love the church, then roast Sunday lunch routine.

Do you have a favourite eatery or is it a takeaway?

If we eat out in Henley, it has to be Café Le Raj – if you're visiting, just say Alan sent you. I go for chicken tikka masala and they spice it up for me so it's vindaloo strength. For takeaway, it has to be Domino's - always the barbecue chicken pizza.

How do you feel on Sunday night about Monday morning?

It depends, not so much that Sunday pang but I do plan what I'm going to do on Monday.

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