Despite a myriad of recent distractions, TT cyclist Nicholas Paul has virtually sealed his place at the Olympic Games. The 2020 edition takes place in Tokyo, Japan from July 24 to August 9.
Paul simply has to participate at the 2020 World Championships in Berlin, Germany from February 26 to March 1 to seal his Olympic spot.
The 21-year-old has been among the world's leading cyclists over the last two years. He set a flying 200m world record of 9.100 seconds at the 2019 Elite Pan American Track Cycling Championships in Bolivia on September 6.
In an interview with Newsday on Friday, Paul said, "Firstly, I have to thank God again. It's been a long journey so far and I am excited to go and represent TT at the Olympic Games."
Paul, who will compete in the sprint and keirin events, joins TT women's endurance cyclist Teniel Campbell who booked her spot in October.
Paul is eager to show his quality at the biggest event in sport. "Olympic Games is my main goal in cycling, so I just want to have my best form at that time and see what it brings me."
The Gasparillo native said he has a number of meets lined up in the coming months in preparation for the big stage.
"The last qualification for the Olympics will be in the World Championships, which is in February, so I'll be going to that and then after that I will be training and it might have some small races in between before the Olympics."
Paul's road to Tokyo has been quite bumpy of late and he has had to face some serious challenges.
Former national coach Erin Hartwell has been instrumental in preparing Paul and the other local cyclists for the Olympics as the TT Cycling Federation (TTCF) technical director, but the former American cyclist left the position just over ten days ago to pursue other opportunities. Former TT cyclist Elijah Greene, who was working under Hartwell, was hired as interim coach of the team.
Paul said he is trying to adjust without Hartwell by keeping focused on the job. "It has been a tough time losing your coach and having to get other coaches and stuff like that, but you just have to keep focused and keep your eyes on the prize."
Two-time Olympian Njisane Phillip and Keron Bramble were a significant part of TT's success over the past two years, but the pair decided to take a break from cycling on December 24, citing TT's unlikely chances of qualifying for the Olympics in the team sprint event. Hartwell was adamant that the dream was still possible.
TT were ranked tenth on the men's team sprint rankings at the time. Phillip and Bramble believed this country's chances of reaching the Olympics in the team sprint were slim-to-none as only eight teams qualify for the Games.
Paul said he misses the family atmosphere of having all the guys around. "It is good when you have a team behind you, but everybody has to do what they have to do, so at the end of the day, you just have to keep focused and keep your eyes on the prize, like I said before."