TT cyclist Njisane Phillip, said being able to train at home in a professional environment surrounded by family and friends has helped him regain his confidence, leading to two medals - gold and silver - at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
The TT sprint cyclists returned from the Pan American Games on Tuesday night with three medals – two gold and one silver. The trio of Phillip, Keron Bramble and Nicholas Paul won gold in the men’s team sprint, before Paul and Phillip copped gold and silver respectively in the individual men’s sprint.
It was a historical moment for the country, as it was the first time two TT cyclists competed against each other for gold. Teniel Campbell added a silver medal in the women’s time trial, on Wednesday.
Phillip, now 28, was a talented junior cyclist, before announcing himself on the world stage in 2012 and 2013. At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Phillip just missed out on a medal with a fourth place finish in the men’s individual sprint. In November 2013, Phillip became the first TT cyclist to earn a UCI (International Cycling Union) medal when he took silver in the individual sprint at the 2013/2014 UCI Track Cycling World Cup.
Unfortunately, when he was at the top of his game an illness kept him out of competition for six months which led to inconsistent performances.
In January 2014, just two months after copping silver at the UCI World Cup, Phillip was admitted to a hospital in California, USA, because of a swollen kidney. He made a full recovery.
On Wednesday, speaking to the media at the TT Olympic House in Port of Spain, Phillip said having the proper structure in place under the guidance of TT Cycling Federation technical director Erin Hartwell has boosted his career.
“I had a couple ups and downs through my career, but again it is just finding the right training programme again. After 2012 that programme kind of just smashed, I was on my own. It was just basically me and (coach/mechanic) Elijah Greene training. Mr Hartwell picked me up in 2016 before the (Olympic) Games and that is when I actually went to Canada and he started to train me and raised my game again to be able to perform at the (2016) Olympics.”
Phillip said training at the National Cycling Velodrome in Couva and being around family and friends has had an impact.
“Being able to have the facilities and the staff and proper support here in TT, it makes a big difference. Again just being able to be with your family. Being able to go home and be there with your family, being there with your friends it changes the game completely...food and (other areas) it makes a big difference to be happy, to be comfortable.”
Phillip encouraged all stakeholders to continue supporting. “On behalf of our team I just want to say thank you for the support. It has been some hard days, but it is good that we could come through and pull through for TT making it a historic event. Just continue building and promoting cycling in TT, continue developing our programme and just putting it out there to the world. Again I just want to say thank you.”
Bramble also praised those involved saying, “Once again I would like to thank the team and staff that supported us along this way.”
Joseph Roberts, vice-president of the TT Cycling Federation, commended the effort of the cyclists. “I want to extend heartfelt congratulations to the entire team, staff and everyone who has made their input, (along with) parents, supporters because this journey is a quite challenging journey. As I said we started two years ago and we hired, together with the Sports Company, technical director in the name of Erin Hartwell and he has brought tremendous value to our sprint pool programme.
“He has brought a level of professionalism, a level of discipline and that whole understanding and hard work ethics that would propel you into the next level...I want to say thank you Erin on behalf of the federation.”