Runner Alberto Campbell will wear green and gold at the Tokyo Paralympics, but it will be to represent his native Jamaica, not Australia.
The 28-year-old had proudly represented Australia in athletics for more than a decade at the international level, but was excluded from the Rio squad due to a technical issue.
The International Paralympic Committee reduced Australia’s quota for the track team and Campbell was eliminated.
He was in uniform, had been promoting the Games and was crushed when he missed his match.
“But I found a way to get over it and you know tell me, it’s not the end of the world.”
A decade of dreams come true
Campbell was born in Jamaica and raised by his adoptive parents in Brisbane, which gave his coaches an idea of how their national champion could still compete in Tokyo.
“One of the Australian coaches said, ‘Why don’t you contact Jamaica to see if there is a chance that they will represent them at the Paralympic Games?’” Said his adoptive father, Paul Staines.
Campbell, who has dual citizenship, received an email from the Jamaican Paralympic Committee earlier this year confirming he could represent his home country in the 400-meter track event.
After more than a decade of training, his dream of becoming a Paralympian is coming true.
He flew 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 one way – I’m right in the middle,” Campbell said.
Mr Staines said it was Australian officials who helped tick all the boxes.
“[One] actually told me, ‘He’s competing for Jamaica, but he’s always going to be an Australian,’ and that shows how fantastic the athletics community is, ‘said Mr Staines.
From the street to the track
Alberto Campbell’s story began when he was abandoned when he was born on the streets of Jamaica.
He suffered from malnutrition, leaving him with an intellectual disability.
Teachers Paul and Julie-Anne Staines met Campbell while working at a Salvation Army orphanage in Kingston and adopted him at the age of nine.
They only discovered his talent for athletics at his first sports carnival.
Mr Staines said his advice to his son then was to follow his friends, have a good time and remember, “it doesn’t matter.”
“Then he ran and won and won convincingly,” said Mr. Staines.
It didn’t take long for Campbell to represent Australia, winning bronze in her category at her first world championship.
Running is “my comfort zone”
Today, Campbell feels more comfortable when he’s at home or on the track.
“I feel like I’m going to stop running?” ” he said.
“It means a lot to me because I can show people what I can do and I feel more comfortable.
“It’s like my comfort zone.”
Campbell’s goal isn’t necessarily to get on the podium on his Paralympic debut in Tokyo.
“I have goals for me, so my goal is to reach the final,” he said.
“My goal in the final is to have a good time [and] a medal would be a bonus. “
Campbell has gained self-reliance in recent years and has moved on on his own, in part with funding from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).