Trinidad and Tobago’s elite cyclists leave today en route to Hong Kong for the first of three World Cup events, crucial to their bid for Olympic qualification, with a timely $1million boost.
Desperately in need of equipment as they continue their Olympic qualifying bid starting in Hong Kong on November 29, the Trinidad and Tobago Cycling Federation (TTCF) yesterday received a cheque for the million from the Sport and Culture Fund, Office of the Prime Minister. The cash will go directly to paying for equipment, especially gear the riders need for the Hong Kong World Cup.
Technical director/sprint coach Erin Hartwell confirmed yesterday that three out of the team of Nicholas Paul, Njisane Phillip, Keron Bramble and Kwesi Browne are currently without the necessary wheels to compete in the sprint and keirin.
“It is the most serious equipment issue to date,” he told the Express yesterday.
“This is critically important timing,” he said of the Sport and Culture Fund money. “It will allow us to get at a minimum the wheels we need to be competitive because we’ve had enough crashes and breakages in the past couple of months that the athletes are simply out of their own equipment and have been unable to procure it themselves...The reality is we’ve had to run exercises with training wheels, not race wheels.”
And TTCF president Larry Romany said steps had been taken to ensure the cyclists would have their wheels in time for the Hong Kong meet.
“Mavic (equipment manufacturer) is making those wheels special for them right now and we should be able now to meet those deadlines and have everything ready for them when they ride off their first race,” he said, adding that, “we have been working on this for a while. Everything was being set out in a timeline to match. It was very good that we were able to get the Sport and Culture Fund to meet and discuss it and approve it in a timely manner.”
In handing over the money, in the presence of directors Hasely Crawford, Devon Seale and Ronson Hackshaw, Sport and Culture Fund chairperson Debra Coryat-Patton said: “It demonstrates the Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the Honourable Dr Keith Rowley and his government’s commitment to the development of sport and the youth of our country.”
Also present at the former Office of the Prime Minister for the handover was Teniel Campbell, the country’s first female cyclist to qualify for the Olympics. And Romany said that she too, would benefit from the disbursement.
“We needed to get equipment for both Teniel and for the sprint team...with Teniel’s qualification for Tokyo, she requires a time trial bike and a road bike for her next six-eight months leading up to the Olympic Games.”
While Campbell is already qualified, the elite men still have some work to do to book their spots. T&T are currently 12th overall in the UCI’s Olympic team sprint rankings, with only the top eight qualifying, while they are seventh overall in the country sprint. Nicholas Paul is fourth in the individual sprint rankings.
“We are very well-placed on the individual side,” Hartwell said. “And I have high expectations that if we didn’t make it in the team sprint we would get in in the two individual events, so we would have two athletes representing in addition to Teniel, three total. But our goal from day one has been, can we qualify in team sprint...And, in these World Cups, we’re chasing a couple of teams. Not worried about Great Britain and Australia right now but lot more worried about Japan, Poland and Germany.”
Following the Hong Kong World Cup, the T&T squad will travel to New Zealand for the Cambridge World Cup (December 6-8) and then Australia for the Brisbane leg (December 13-15).