TT’s first-ever female Olympic-bound cyclist, Teniel Campbell, has urged upcoming athletes to shed their fears and find the courage to keep pushing on, even when it seems like all is lost.
After spending the first half of her 15-month training programme at the World Cycling Centre (WCC) in 2018, the 22-year old found it tough to acclimatise to the European circuit. However, Campbell took some time to personally reflect on her aspirations as a cyclist and returned to Aigle, Switzerland, with a rejuvenated and self-motivated mindset. The lanky road racer then buckled down, shifted her athletic focus and soon after began grinding out a list of impressive results.
“Going back to Switzerland this year, I went into it with a different mental perspective,” she explained. “I returned with a motive to showcase my talent and get rid of my fears. You can train a lot but you need to understand the races, tactics and your body. I needed to stay away from the noise and focus on what I had to do.”
Over the past two years, the Debe High School graduate has racked up a series of top performances in the Caribbean and on the Asian and European circuit. At the 2018 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games, in July, she captured four medals: three bronze and one gold in the Scratch, the Omnium, the individual pursuit and the road race, respectively. For her dominant performance, Campbell joined three other cyclists (all male) who received a national award – Hummingbird silver.
From there, she successfully competed in several meets across Belgium, France, Norway, Thailand and the Netherlands. In 2019, the PSL representative then: pedalled to victory at the Tour of Thailand; won the overall sprint classification and “Best Young Rider” at the Kreiz Breizh Feminine (France); rode to gold and bronze in the women’s Under-23 Time Trial and elite road race at the Pan Am Championships respectively (Mexico); grabbed double-silver in both the elite Time Trial and road race at the Pan Am Games; and also produced a couple top-ten finishes on the European circuit to wrap up her 2019 competitive year.
“I went back to Europe and gave it my best, bettering my first year’s results. As I began to produce more solid performances, I grew mentally. This was crucial for me. I must acknowledge PSL’s director Desmond Roberts, my coaches and teammates at WCC and my family for believing in me,” she added.
The brave endurance cyclist also reflected on her performance at this year’s World Championships Road Race where, according to her, her body froze reminiscing on a crash from the previous year.
“There were really bad weather conditions for the time trial and it brought back memories of a bad crash. I got nervous, my body just froze and I took it cautiously. I didn’t know I, and athletes, still carry that trauma from past experiences. I have come to know that I’m not perfect and there are still things I have to work on and learn to conquer,” Campbell continued.
Her qualification for the 2020 Olympic Road Race in Japan has not yet soaked in, she said. Campbell is also the first TT cyclist to qualify for road cycling since the 1972 Munich Games, breaking the 48-year drought on the road. She, however, is intent on remaining calm and settled as she prepares for a hectic upcoming season riding for professional cycling club, Valcar Cyclane (Italy).
“The full feeling of qualifying has not hit me as yet. I don’t want to get carried away by everything that is happening around me. It is important to stay focussed. As for now, I’m solely focussed on training and preparing for next year. I just need to stay away from the noise and continue to develop as an athlete. I’m learning more about myself so I can know how to train better. Once I keep developing myself, the performances will keep coming,” she concluded.