Darren Campbell has vowed to carry on running next year in an effort to help the rest of Britain’s 4x100 metres Relay team who won the Olympic gold medal achieve their full potential.
Having recently turned 31, Campbell, the 2003 World 100m bronze medallist acknowledges he is in the autumn of his distinguished career but is convinced Jason Gardener, Marlon Devonish and Mark Lewis-Francis all have the ability to excel as individuals on the world sprinting stage.
Campbell believes Lewis-Francis, in particular, will grow in confidence after anchoring Britain to their first Olympic gold medals in the 4x100m since the Stockholm Games in 1912. "I don’t have to prove anything to anyone anymore, not even to myself,” said Campbell. “I can go out there and have fun and encourage these guys like Mark Lewis-Francis for the future.”
In Athens, Lewis-Francis held off Maurice Greene, the 2000 Olympic 100m champion and former World record holder, to remind everyone of the talent he first displayed when winning the 1999 IAAF World Youth Championships and the following year’s IAAF World Junior Championships.
“If I can spend time with him and nurture him I know he can be the next one,” said Campbell. “I’ve always believed that because he’s already achieved something that is totally amazing at a young age. “But now it’s time to build on it because it [winning in Athens] is life changing experience. But given time he’ll be the next one.”
Disillusioned in 1996
Campbell briefly walked away from the sport after the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 because he was so disillusioned after he dropped the baton in the relay.
It was Linford Christie, the 1992 Olympic 100m champion, who persuaded him to come back. It was a decision rewarded in 1998 when Campbell succeeded Christie as the European 100m champion and two years later won the silver medal in the Olympic 200m.
“Linford did that for me and I can’t just walk away from the sport and not give anything back myself,” said Campbell. “I’ve achieved a lot, been rewarded and it would be great to help someone like Mark. “He’s 21 years of age and he’s already Olympic champion. That’s the kind of talent we have in our midst.”
Campbell has also predicted bright futures for Gardener, who although 29 has seen his career blighted by injury, and Devonish, 28. Before Athens both were pigeon holed as indoor runners; Gardener won the IAAF World Indoor 60m title in Budapest in March, while Devonish was 200m gold medallist in last year’s corresponding event in Birmingham.
A six year-old’s dreams have fulfilled
“Given time these guys will be great – I believe that, I know that,” said Campbell.
As for himself, Campbell, the 2003 IAAF World Championship 100m bronze medallist, wants to enjoy the final few years of his career without too much pressure.
“Those who have watched me compete over how many years know that for me it’s only ever been about one thing and that was doing well in major championships,” he said.
“Now I’ve achieved that Olympic gold medal the Darren Campbell that competes next year will be a lot more relaxed.
“I still want to go under 10 and 20 seconds [for 100m and 200m] but I’m going to be a lot more relaxed because I’ve achieved what I set out to achieve since I was six years old.
A lot to live up to
“I don’t think we can question what I’ve achieved as an individual because I’ve got medals from every championship. The only person more successful than me [in Britain] sprinting wise is Linford Christie.
“I don’t owe anyone anything anymore. I’ve represented my country with great pride and now it’s time to go and have some fun. Whoever comes now behind me has got a lot to live up because I haven’t just been successful at 100m, but also the 200m and got relay medals.”
Campbell has enjoyed being feted as an Olympic champion. The most memorable experience was being invited to play in a live televised football match before a crowd of 50,000 at Newcastle United’s St. James’ Park involving a team of celebrities and former professionals, including the ex-England captain Bryan Robson.
The pace of Campbell, who during his brief spell away from athletics played football for England Football League club Plymouth Argyle, caught the eye and he was unlucky not to score on several occasions.
Duncan Mackay for the IAAF