Coleraine homecoming for Olympic medal-winning rowers

Northern Ireland's Olympic medal-winning rowers arrive at Belfast City Airport ahead of a homecoming reception in Coleraine.

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Northern Ireland's Olympic medal-winning rowers are receiving a heroes' welcome in their hometown of Coleraine.

Team GB rowers Richard and Peter Chambers took silver in the lightweight fours, while Alan Campbell won a bronze in the single sculls.

They have returned to Bann Rowing Club where they honed their rowing skills.

Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said their "achievement really does transcend sport and serves as an inspiration to us all".

The celebrations will continue with an appearance in the town centre at about 15:00 BST.

The three men were cheered by supporters at Belfast City Airport as they arrived back in Northern Ireland on Wednesday morning.

Start Quote

I was absolutely manic in the grandstand, I went just ballistic. I felt if he can put the effort in rowing I can put the effort in supporting him”

End Quote Jenny Campbell Mother of Alan Campbell

Alan's mother, Jenny Campbell, said the celebrations in their hometown were "a great accolade for the lads".

Endeared

"I'm just so proud that Alan has used every ounce of his God-given talents," she told BBC Radio Ulster.

Mrs Campbell said she was delighted by the way he had conducted himself after winning his medal and said he was "a popular young man" who had "endeared himself to the crowds".

The Chambers brother and Alan and Jenny Campbell Jenny Campbell hugged her son Alan as the rowers arrived at Belfast City Airport

Alan started rowing as a Year 10 schoolboy in Coleraine Academic Institution and his mother explained that it was the start of a gruelling schedule.

"It was four afternoons in the week training and Saturday mornings right through until about half past one, so he really had committed a lot of time.

"At one stage I thought he had committed too much time but of course the regime now is seven days a week, only one day off in the month."

She said she rarely got to attend his competitions, and usually preferred to watch on TV when she already knew the result.

'Overwhelming'

However, for the Olympics, she travelled to Eton Dorney with her husband to cheer him on.

"As you see from television footage, I was absolutely manic in the grandstand, I went just ballistic. I felt if he can put the effort in rowing I can put the effort in supporting him."

Speaking ahead of the event, the town's deputy mayor, Alderman Maura Hickey, said the rowers' success was "an overwhelming result for Coleraine and for sport throughout this country".

In total, Northern Ireland's Olympians won five medals at London 2012, with Belfast boxers Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan taking bronze for Team Ireland.

Both men were feted on an open-top bus ride through Belfast city centre on Tuesday.

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