“You’ve got to have faith and trust in yourself. You’ve done the work and practice, now it’s all about the execution”
On the eve of the London 2012 Olympics Elysium Magazine sought to speak to someone who knows a thing or two about winning medals. Step forward Darren Campbell, winner of Olympic Gold amongst many other accolades, and from arguably the greatest generation of Team GB track athletes. Darren tells Elysium Magazine what it’s like to win an Olympic medal, the line up of what could be the greatest 100m final ever, and how discerning gents can take their training and motivation to the next level.
Elysium Magazine (EM): London 2012 – it’s going to be an amazing event. How much would you have liked to be a part of it?
Darren Campbell (DC): I was very lucky to be able to retire from the sport on my own terms, not forced to retire through injury etc. I suppose I could bow out gracefully at my peak. This allows me to sit back and watch the wealth of elite sporting action in a way I couldn’t really do whilst participating. London 2012 will be a great event for the country. I’ll also be commentating for various TV and radio stations at The Games which is something I’m looking forward too.
EM: Tell us mortals what it’s like to win an Olympic Gold medal?
DC: Standing on the podium to receive my medal, it was a realisation of a dream I’ve had for a long time. It’s a mind blowing experience and I still don’t believe it sometimes. There was also a feeling deep down, like a release of pain and anger as it had been a long road to travel until that point. I’ll never forget Carl Lewis in the ’84 Olympics who was my inspiration for getting to the Olympics and competing. To realise that dream has been one of the greatest moments in my life.
EM: What was your favourite event – the 100m, 200m or 4x 100m relay?
DC: I always felt the 200m was my event. The distance suited me more and my background as a semi-professional footballer helped with the explosion of speed and endurance over a slightly longer distance.
The 100m was a far more intense event. It was a pressured environment where you’re up against the fastest in the world. It was all about the attention to detail so nothing distracts you from hearing the starters orders.
The relay is where the team comes together and magic happens. For us it felt like destiny to achieve what we did.
EM: The 100m race at London 2012 will be a fierce competition. How do you think this race will play out with the likes of Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Asafa Powell etc?
DC: The 100m final at London 2012 will be the best final ever. There’s lots of spice to it!
A lot of these guys are in the form of their lives. Blake and Bolt know each other very well from training together, while Powell is technically brilliant. But there’s also Tyson Gay and Justin Gaitlin to add to the mix. They are all very fast guys!
However top athletes can under perform, so as a competitor you need to be ready to take advantage on the day.
EM: Tell us about focus – what goes through your mind when you’re on the starters block?
DC: I’ve always said that you’ve got to have faith and trust in yourself. You’ve done the work and practice, now it’s all about the execution. Think of it like a car, you’re on a journey which you’ve planned out.
The subconscious is very important though. You have to block everything else out – the stadium, the fans etc. It’s all about reacting to the gun – that should be your only focus.
EM: To become an elite sportsman has to do a lot about discipline. What were your biggest sacrifices for the benefit of your sport?
DC: For me the time away from my family was the biggest sacrifice as I could be away for weeks without seeing my children.
Food was another sacrifice as you can imagine for any athlete. My normal walk around weight would be 90-95kg but my race weight was around 80kg so I had to be careful what I ate. Balance is key for me though – everything in moderation is a good mantra. If you have a goal, it always helps to remember why you’re putting yourself through it. Then you’ll realise it’s a small sacrifice.
Ultimately you’re a professional sportman, and the keyword is being profession. In all walks of life to be a profession means the same thing – a doctor, a lawyer or a sportsman. They are all dedicated to their job.
EM: In your opinion, what needs to change in the current setup of English Athletics for the nation to see the same level of success your generation brought?
DC: It’s the realisation that the rest of the world has caught up. Attention to detail will always be crucial. In order to achieve sustained success you need to focus on why you’re doing it. It’s not about the money or the sponsorships, for me it was always about winning Olympic gold.
EM: You’re working with Premier League football clubs and helping players improve their spirit technique. Can you tell us your top tips to improve speed?
DC: For me the most crucial things are:
- Technique – key thing is the biomechanics of your body and making your movements more efficient e.g. having an efficient arm action – don’t run with the body but allow the arms to propel the legs
- Drills – these are a great way to engage the fast-twitch muscle fibres responsible for explosive speed
- Hydration and recovery – it’s just as important as the training
- Stretching before and after training
EM: Finally, did you ever have a plan B in case athletics didn’t work out for you?
DC: Ever since I was around 14-15 years old I wanted to be successful sportsman or businessman, but I also had this idea of becoming a barrister too. I like to talk so think I’d have suited the role, but the pressure and intensity coupled with the stress of helping people is something that appealed to me.
Darren Campbell is a director of PAS Ltd and has just launched Daionic Pro Nutrition Shakes, for more information visit Daionic.com