Mind Games Give Late Starter Real Hope of a Golden Finish ; Jane Campbell, Who Only Recently Began Playing Table Tennis Competitively, Is Using Psychology to Give Her the Edge, by Adrian Warner in Melbourne

Article excerpt

THE EVENING STANDARD'S TWELVE FOR LONDON 2012

THERE are few competitors who can psych-out the sports psychologists but Jane Campbell has the ability to make even the experts in motivation and mind games flounder.

When a sports psychologist was sent for a routine visit to the disabled table tennis player recently, he returned astounded by Campbell's detailed knowledge of the mental attitudes required to be successful in sport.

This is a 37-year-old woman in a wheelchair who just four years ago wrote down becoming a Paralympian, together with two other 'Ps' - buying property and achieving promotion - as her three goals in life during a course for her job as a market research director.

At the time Campbell, who has a masters degree in psychology, enjoyed table tennis socially but was far from being an elite athlete. She admits it was a "crazy goal" at the time.

But the Wapping-based player was convinced by the people running the course that she could achieve all three aims.

Now - the property has been bought, the promotion achieved and Campbell is heading confidently towards a place in Britain's team for the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.

Campbell's natural talent has been recognised and she has been " fasttracked" by Lottery cash distributor UK Sport. Now she has set herself the long-term goal of winning gold at the 2012 London Paralympics.

The first major step on the way is the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

Listening to Campbell talk as she prepares for her first appearance at a multi-sports event, you soon start believing she will go all the way to a gold medal in her own back yard in Stratford at the age of 44.

This remarkable transformation, between the age of 33 and 37, from a hobby player to an elite performer has been fuelled by Campbell's passion for reading books on motivation.

She said: "They told me on the course in 2002 that if you can conceive-a goal, you can achieve it. I thought: 'Right, I'm going to give it a go.' Long term I am very confident that I will qualify for London. I hope to win a medal by then. To win gold would be fantastic. There would be nothing better than that."

Soon after the course Campbell started working with coach Simon Rockall, who immediately recognised her natural talent and mental toughness.

Campbell, a passionate horse rider before she became disabled in a car crash in South Africa at the age of 15, devours books on motivation like the rest of us read novels. She usually has one on the go in between weekends which are dominated by training and matches.

She was particularly inspired by Steve Redgrave's story of overcoming health problems to win a record five Olympic gold medals. …