TT’s chances of securing an Olympic spot in the Men’s Team Sprint event have been significantly reduced due to the non-registration of a squad for the International Cycling Union (UCI) Track Cycling World Cup in Milton, Canada, on January 24.
Only three TT athletes have been registered to compete at the penultimate Olympic qualifier. They, however, will vie for honours and precious Olympic points, in the Men’s Individual Sprint and Keirin events.
Nicholas Paul continues his impressive sprint qualification journey ranked at number six (2,390pts) on the UCI individual rankings and seventh (5,321pts) on the Olympic qualifier rankings.
Paul will be joined in Men’s Individual Sprint by the team’s latest addition Quincy Alexander, who has also been training with the national unit since August 2019. Alexander’s current individual UCI rank is 126th.
In the Men’s Keirin, Kwesi Browne also continues pursuit of his Olympic dream. Ranked at a credible 12th on the Olympic Nation Rankings, Browne will be hoping to capitalise on his next two performances – UCI World Cup and World Track Cycling Championships (Germany, February 26 to March 1) – to affirm his Olympic debut.
Since two-time Olympian Njisane Phillip and compatriot Keron Bramble opted out of pre-Olympic training following the last three World Cup legs (China, New Zealand and Australia) in late 2019, the TT Men’s Sprint team has crumbled. The pair claim the task is impossible but, national coach Erin Hartwell still believes there’s a slim mathematical chance to qualify.
Having now lost out on a major opportunity to gain much-needed Men’s Team Sprint Olympic qualifier points in Canada, the TT Cycling Federation will need to assess its way forward following the World Cup. The Team Sprint squad have already qualified for World Championships and the decision to participate in this final Olympic qualifier depends on the TT Cycling Federation and the available athlete pool.
“The team is still qualified for the World Championships. So, the TTCF will need to assess where it’s at following Milton, to see if it has the athlete pool prepared to participate in ‘Worlds’. I can only focus on Canada at the moment as I’m not aware of the official status of the riders that are not competing in Milton. Once I know their status going forward, we’ll be able to make decisions for ‘Worlds’,” Hartwell explained.
The three-cyclist team and Hartwell are currently awaiting receipt of their Canadian visas and are expected to arrive at their destination by Tuesday. As tough as Team Sprint qualification may seem, the national coach remains optimistic.
“We work through it as best we can, always striving to stay focused and positive. We’ve already ridden the maximum number of World Cups that will count towards Olympic qualification. You must ride at least three a season. We’re simply working with the World Cup points we have, with an understanding that we can race ‘Worlds’ and work to ride well and place ahead of the teams we’re chasing by a few places,” Hartwell concluded.