A persistent toe injury has hampered the decathlete’s training this year and has forced him to abandon multi-event competitions, but cautious preparation and a period of recuperation before the junior festival still paid off on three fronts.
The Hautlieu student smashed his personal best by nine centimetres on the Italian isle of Sicily to claim gold in the high jump – qualifying for next year’s senior Island Games in the process with a leap of 1.97m – and he made two further podium appearances from the shot putt and discus circles.
A four-metre career-best discus throw was good enough for gold, while a disappointing outing in the shot, following an unpleasant hotel welcome, still resulted in silver.
‘It has been a difficult year, so it [Jeux des Iles] was a big statement to myself,’ said the 17-year-old.
‘It was a shock to the system when we arrived on the first day. The accommodation was nothing like we’d ever experienced before – floods in the room, insects everywhere, hot, smelly, no working shower. Acclimatising to that got to me and I woke up the first day with a horribly cricked neck from rock solid pillows.
‘It was difficult to get myself together for the shot put, and to be honest I was lucky to get silver. I was hoping to throw mid-15m but I ended up with 13-something. I got the best result I could have medal-wise, but I was a bit down after that.
‘I’m a person who’s motivated by going out and doing the best I can do, not by going out to do better than the next person, so the shot put was pretty poor. There was no way I was getting any better than silver because the winner is an Italian champion who can throw 18 metres, but I was still not happy at all because I hadn’t done what I wanted to do.’
He continued: ‘Luckily Karen [Le Mottee, team coach] got us a different room for the second day, and we also made a complaint about the food because they fed us pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Things started to come together after that and I got myself in a good place.
‘I got a PB in the discus, and won that, and the high jump … I don’t know where it came from. Going into the competition I hadn’t really run for six months, let alone high jump, so still being able to make it click is great. In my mind I was just hoping to go out there and pop over 1.85m for Island Games B standard, but in the end I ended up winning by ten or 15 centimetres.
‘I managed to pull it out of the bag and it was obviously a big boost. I haven’t had the training but I’ve still got spring in my legs and although growth is causing pain it’s still doing well for me.’
Discussing his Sicily silverware, and the May JEP award, Campbell added: ‘The medals are very nice, it’s a boost to win them but they’re more a symbol of what I can still achieve. I’m excited to get myself stable, build the strength needed to prevent injuries in the future and come back hard next year. Hopefully I can win the English Schools [Championships] next year in the multis [multi-events].
‘It’s nice to feel appreciated and see that people do care about what I’m doing. I just go out to represent my Island, so being appreciated for it is a nice thing to have thrown in.’
Campbell, who matched swimmer Emily Bashforth’s gold medal-winning Jeux achievements from Azores 2010, becomes the third athlete to receive the monthly sporting award, following the efforts of track runners Elliott Dorey [August 2017] and Tyler Johnson [January 2018].