Australia

Australian track champion Alberto Campbell will represent Jamaica at the Paralympics

Runner Alberto Campbell will don green and gold at the Paralympics in Tokyo, but it will be to represent his birth country Jamaica, not Australia.

The 28-year-old had proudly represented Australia in athletics for more than a decade at an international level but was cut from the squad for Rio due to a technicality.

The International Paralympic Committee reduced Australia’s quota for the athletics team and Campbell was culled.

He had the uniform, had promoted the Games, and was crushed when he missed out.

Campbell at his training track in Brisbane, before departing for Tokyo.(

ABC News: Brittney Kleyn

)

“But I found a way to get past that and you know, say to myself, it’s not the end of the world.”

Decade of dreams comes true

Campbell was born in Jamaica and raised by his adopted parents in Brisbane, which gave his trainers an idea about how their national champion could still compete in Tokyo.

Julie-Anne and Paul Staines with Campbell on Christmas Day in 2002.
Campell with his adoptive parents Julie-Anne and Paul Staines on Christmas Day in 2002.

“One of the Australian coaches said: ‘Why don’t you contact Jamaica and see if there’s a chance of him representing them in the Paralympics?”” his adopted father Paul Staines said.

Campbell, a dual citizen, received an email from Jamaica’s Paralympic Committee early this year confirming he could represent his birth country in the 400-metre track event.

After more than a decade of training, his dream of becoming a Paralympian is to be realised.

Track star with his adopted mother
Campbell and his Ms Staines on their first Mother’s Day together in 2003.(

Supplied

)

He flew out to Tokyo on Saturday and will compete next week, joking that if he wins a medal, he hopes to sing two national anthems on the podium.

“My allegiance doesn’t go either way: I’m just in the middle,” Campbell said.

Mr Staines said it had been Australian officials who helped tick all the boxes.

“[One] actually said to me: ‘He’s competing for Jamaica, but he’ll always be an Australian’, and it just shows what a fantastic community the athletics community is,” Mr Staines said.

Alberto Campbell at the Jamaican orphanage, 2001, when he was in Grade 1.
Campbell in the Kingston orphanage, 2001, when he was in Grade 1.(

Supplied

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From the street to the track

Alberto Campbell’s story began when he was abandoned at birth on the streets of Jamaica.

He was malnourished, leaving him with an intellectual disability.

Teachers Paul and Julie-Anne Staines met Campbell while working in a Salvation Army orphanage in Kingston and adopted him when he was nine.

Paul Staines, Campbell's adopted father, at a training track in Brisbane.
Campbell’s adopted father, Mr Steines, at his son’s training track in Brisbane.(

ABC News: Brittney Kleyn

)

They only discovered his talent for athletics at his first sports carnival.

Mr Staines said his advice to his son then was to keep up with his friends, have a good time and to remember, “it doesn’t matter”.

“Then he ran and won and won convincingly,” Mr Staines said.

It was not long before Campbell was representing Australia, winning bronze in his class at his first world championship.

Alberto Campbell and friends at the Jamaican Orphanage, 2002.
Campbell with his friends at the orphanage in 2002.

Running is ‘my comfort zone’ 

Today, Campbell feels most comfortable when he is at home or on the track.

“I feel like, am I ever going to stop running?” he said.

“It means a lot to me, because I get to show people what I can do and I feel more comfortable.

“It’s like my comfort zone.”

Campbell’s goal is not necessarily to make the podium on his Paralympic debut in Tokyo.

“I’ve got goals for myself, so my goal is to make it to the final,” he said.

“My goal in the final is to run a good time [and] a medal would be a bonus.”


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