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Campbell Stewart is a young athlete with dreams, aspirations and determination backing him and his cycling prowess.
Recently granted the prestigious Emerging Talent Award at the Halberg Awards, joining the likes of past winners Jacko Gill, Lydia Ko and Eliza McCartney, 18-year-old Campbell is a sportsman with a bright future in cycling. In fact he has won four junior world titles in the past two years, the most by any New Zealand cyclist in history.
At a local level in his home town Palmerston North, he has won two Manawatu Secondary Schools Sports Awards, supreme sportsman of the year titles and two Manawatu Sports Awards junior sportsman of the year titles, recently adding Palmerston North Marist sportsperson of the year to his list of accolades.
Campbell travels between his home base in Palmerston North and a flat in Cambridge so he can be close to and train at Cambridge’s Avantidrome.
His passion for the sport was ignited during his intermediate school years (around 12 years old) at Palmerston North Intermediate Normal School and was somewhat influenced by his sister Kate and father John, who were both accomplished in the sport at the time.
He then progressed to Palmerston North Boys' High School where its strong cycling culture nurtured his passion for the sport some more. His breakthrough occurred at the 2012 Age Group Track Cycling National Championships, where he won four gold medals in the under-15 category.
In his first year of cycling he competed in the nationals in Invercargill, gaining his first national title – and he’s been accumulating national titles every year since. He's also made a few overseas trips to compete.
In 2013 Campbell won a haul of three golds and a silver medal. In 2014 Campbell advanced to the under-19 age group, despite being only 16. At the Pan-Pacific Championships in Adelaide he won gold medals in the omnium and scratch races. In the omnium and scratch races. In the omnium Campbell won in five out of the six disciplines. In 2015 he became double world champion after a courageous victory in the omnium at the UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships in Astana, Kazakhstan. He won the world title in the scratch race on the opening day, and recovered from a crash in the final points race to claim his second rainbow jersey in the gruelling six-discipline omnium.
Campbell joined Sarah Ulmer (1994 in Quito) and the team pursuit world champion (at the time) Regan Gough (2014 in Korea) as double rainbow jersey winners at the Junior Track Cycling World Championships, one behind the three gold medals won by sprinter Sam Webster in Moscow in 2009.
Mike McRedmond – life member of the Palmerston North Marist Cycling Club and 1982 Commonwealth Games silver medallist – is Campbell’s coach. Mike was National Junior track head coach between 2006 and 2010 and has coached numerous Palmerston North athletes, including Olympic medalists Jesse Sergent and Simon van Velthooven. Campbell says Mike's impact has been massive since his early days in the sport. He also attributes his success to the support of his parents, and the structure of the sport – Cycling New Zealand. “After winning world titles and seeing my success in the sport, I’ve kept being hungry for more.”
It became clear to Campbell that track cycling was the area within the sport where he wanted to hone his skills. Last year he achieved two world titles in Switzerland in the junior men’s team pursuit, also achieving an under-19 world record, first in the junior men’s omnium and a second in the junior men’s madison events.
Now Campbell is competing within the elite ranks and has already competed this year in two world cups, in Los Angeles and Columbia, achieving silver in omnium and bronze in madison teams. He says that competition at this level is a real step up and is tough. “There are a lot of good racers out there,” he says.
The wheels on Campbell’s bike don’t stop spinning. At the time of this interview, he was working towards being named in the New Zealand team to compete in the track world champs in mid-April, in Hong Kong. It was later announced that he had made the 16-strong Vantage New Zealand Elite Track Cycling team, joining the Rio Olympic riders, who form the nucleus of the team, as one of three new additions.
Campbell was part of the six-strong men’s endurance squad named to compete at the Hong Kong Velodrome with the New Zealand team finishing with a record, equalling five medals. There was intense training leading up to the event with training camps and his usual nine training sessions each week – be it gym work, track training or road riding. He is keen to give it all he can to prepare for competition.
And for the longer term, he has his sights set on next year's Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, then the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020. Campbell has partnered with Manawatu Toyota, which has assisted him with four reliable wheels, a new RAV4, for his regular commute between Palmerston North and Cambridge. “The support I've received from Manawatu Toyota has been amazing because it has allowed me to travel to racing and training with less stress, so I’m able to perform at my best.”