Trini cyclist an inspiration
Life has not changed a lot for 21-year-old Trinidad and Tobago cyclist Njisane Phillip since the London 2012 Olympic Games.
After placing fourth in the men’s sprint and seventh in the keirin in London, his face is now more recognizable, but his biggest impact has been among the young cyclists across the region.
“I think I motivated a lot of the young ones, racing with them, them seeing me and seeing the process of me getting to the Olympics,” Phillip told MIDWEEK SPORT in an interview last Sunday. “I think it definitely motivated a lot of [riders] not just in Trinidad and Tobago but in the Caribbean.”
He said when he spoke to the young riders here, many of them were aware of who he was and what he had done.
Phillip was in Barbados last weekend with friend Darren Matthews and rode part of the Fontabelle criterium. He lasted eight laps of the two-hour ride before retiring.
“He [Matthews] insisted that I race, so I borrowed a bike, helmet and shoes and came out. It was fun,” Phillip said.
“The bike wasn’t my fit. It was a bit uncomfortable so I came out.”
One thing he is not known for is quitting, though.
Many of the other cyclists he rode with as juniors have left the sport, but he is looking forward to the future now that his country is investing millions of dollars in a state-of-the-art velodrome.
The velodrome/BMX Olympic park will comprise an indoor wooden track and training track and is estimated to cost TT$200 million (BDS$62.3 million). It is part of an TT$800 million investment in a Sports Village at Couva, in west-central Trinidad, which also includes a $195 million aquatic centre and tennis courts at a cost of TT$200 million.
Minister of Sport Anil Roberts said the facility would be used to attract world class athletes for matches and tournaments.
“Trinidad and Tobago is definitely investing a lot in sport,” Phillip said. “Them investing into a cycling velodrome is definitely a thing I am proud of. I think we have tremendous talent in Trinidad [but] at a certain age we just disappear.
“It is very hard to continue training in the outdoor facilities with the funding and stuff, so them putting in that investment, I think, is definitely a good look for our island.”
“I really love the sport and I was very fortunate for my parents to fund me to that point where I was able to get the government assistance and my sponsorship and such, [but] a lot of people are not as fortunate.
“There is a lot of talent in Trinidad and Tobago, guys that I raced against as juniors and got junior medals. It is really a shame we don’t have them with us today, but I understand they have to do what is necessary to take care of themselves. The government is putting a lot of money into it and I am looking forward to the future.”
He will soon be back at training camp in Germany preparing for the summer Grand Prix season, World Cup and World Championships.