Trinidad and Tobago’s sole Olympic cycling hopeful, Njisane Phillip, touched down in Hong Kong early yesterday morning ahead of his penultimate 2016 Summer Games qualifier event – UCI World Cup Series third and final leg – which pedals off in Hong Kong on Saturday.
Phillip and his recently appointed personal Colombian coach, Absie Rincon Reyes, and TT cycling specialist Elisha Greene, arrived in Hong Kong after completing a one-month training camp at the Alcides Nieto Patino Velodrome in Colombia on Friday. They will use the coming days to fine-tune preparations ahead of Phillip’s Men’s Sprint challenge.
Speaking to the ace rider over the weekend, the 24-year-old thanked the Colombian Cycling Federation for allowing him use of their facility but lamented he was not able to utilise the National Cycling Velodrome which remains unopened.
“I’ve been in Colombia for four weeks and it’s been great,” he said. “I’m really thankful for the people here in Colombia for providing the Velodrome for me. I’m very happy down here and they have made it very comfortable for me. We do have our Velodrome but it seems that there’s a lot of politics involved with that. It’s something that we as Trinidad and Tobago athletes are sadly used to, going to a foreign country to prepare. We always have to be travelling to use their facilities and they are more welcoming it seems.” Since the laying of an $18m Siberian Spruce track by German designer Ralph Schurmann in March of last year, national riders have been permitted to use the 250m Couva surface once.
With a previously projected deadline of May/June 2015 for completion, to date the state-ofthe- art facility remains incomplete.
“It does have a negative toll on me especially being away from my family and home. We have it (Velodrome), why can’t we take the necessary steps to make it available? It’s stressful because I have to come to a foreign country and spend money that the government is not providing. I understand that right now we are in a recession but what are the necessary steps that we are taking to ensure that everything is in place for us to be stress-free and focussed? This is the most important year for our nation’s athletes, all of us, the year that we need the most support, and nothing is happening. It’s bad that we always have to complain around the Olympic year.” However, step-father of the two-wheel speedster Phillip Whiteman, acknowledged Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTO C) president Brian Lewis and the Trinidad and Tobago Cycling Federation (TT CF) for ensuring that Phillip’s camp was a success.
With the assistance of these two fraternities and continuous financial aid from his step-dad, Phillip was able to acquire the services of coach Reyes following his performance in the second World Cup in New Zealand (December 5-6, 2015). The Colombian tutor is expected to work with Phillip alongside Greene up to his final Olympic qualifier event – World Track Cycling Championships in London, England (March 2-6).
“It’s frustrating at times but I just have to focus on myself and finishing up these qualifications for Olympics and then I’ll get a little break ahead of the World Championships,” he added.
“But I still try to keep positive still and very happy. I’ve been waiting for this year a very long time and I’m deeply motivated and I look forward to the last World Cup in Hong Kong, then onto World Championships in March. I’m just taking it one step at a time.”