National cyclist Nicholas Paul has made it clear he and his teammates have Olympic gold in mind following an impressive showing at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. The cycling team was warmly welcomed home around 11 pm last night by family and well-wishers as the celebrations continued.
Paul brought home two medals, becoming TT's first Pan Am sprint champion in 48 years, while also winning gold alongside Njisane Phillip and Keron Bramble in the team sprint. He broke Phillip's Pan Am sprint record (9.977 seconds) in the individual race, gunning it in 9.808 seconds.
In an interview at the Piarco International Airport, Paul said they were focused on getting the job done for the country on the grandest stage in Tokyo, Japan next year.
Video: Renaldo Matadeen
Paul acknowledged the tremendous impact national coach Erin Hartwell has on him and his teammates.
Hartwell is a US bronze medallist at the '92 Olympics, silver medallist at the '96 Olympics and a former world record holder.
"It's always a pleasure working with Erin, because he's very professional. He's always showing us the way to the top and we just have to keep following that path and hopefully we'll make it to the Olympics and win a gold for TT."
On his experience in Peru, Paul said, "Firstly, I would like to thank God, because without him none of this would be possible. Secondly, I would like to thank my teammates for making it a memorable trip and I just wish we could do it all over again."
Regarding the individual sprint, he beamed about creating history with Phillip with this country's first all-TT Pan Am sprint final.
"It's always a pleasure to have two Trinidadians in the finals. Going up against Njisane, it's always a pleasure knowing he's my teammate and that the red, white and black had gold no matter what." As for shattering his record, Paul said that was never on his mind. "Ah, well, I never think about breaking records. I just think about going out there and doing my best, and whatever I come out with, I'm happy."
Which gold meant more to Paul? The 20-year-old unhesitatingly said the team sprint got him more excited.
"It was a huge accomplishment winning the team sprint...We're just happy we're progressing each day and we just have to keep working hard to go into our next meet in Bolivia and to remain fit and ready to race again. We're already resuming training tomorrow."
Although he left Peru a perfect two gold medals from two events, Paul said it was not all smooth on the track. He had to contend with relegation for an infringement in the semis of the individual sprint, forcing the match-up into a third ride, which he won to prevail 2-1. "That's all part of racing. You just have to reset and refocus and go again."
As for the 48-year wait for sprint gold, Paul didn't know about the feat but was very much excited to learn of it at the airport. "That's exciting! Once the red, white and black is on top I'm happy, so to do that and bring glory to TT is a great thing for me."