TT’s Olympic debutant cyclists, Nicholas Paul and Kwesi Browne, are scheduled to return to the World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Switzerland on March 23 to climax preparations ahead of their first Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan.
At the just concluded World Track Cycling Championships in Germany, both athletes affirmed Olympic spots in the Men’s Sprint and Keirin events. They join the nation’s first-ever female Olympic road racing representative and fellow tourney debutant, Teniel Campbell, to spearhead TT’s largest Olympic cycling contingent in over five decades.
After Paul’s tenth place finish at ‘Worlds’ – the final Olympic qualifier – he was still ranked among the top 12 nations and earned automatic qualification for the Men’s Sprint event. Browne however, did not participate at the Championships but still solidified his spot due to favorable Keirin results churned out from trailing Olympic-ranked nations such as Spain, Venezuela, South Africa and Kazakhstan.
His performances at the recently concluded International Cycling Union (UCI) World Cup Series (China, New Zealand, Australia and Canada) partnered with the results from other contesting nations at ‘Worlds’, Browne’s Olympic debut is now set in stone.
Paul recently returned from national duty in Germany and plans to use the coming weeks to wind down from his hectic pre-Olympic qualification campaign. Prior to his most recent performance, the Flying 200m (9.1s) world-record holder underwent three weeks of intense training alongside Olympic silver-medallist and coach, Craig Maclean, at the WCC before heading off to the Berlin Velodrome.
“Firstly, I thank God because this journey was a long one. Without God, all this would not have been possible. I’m just elated right now because this was one of my goals, to actually qualify for the Olympic Games. I’m really happy about my performances over the past two years and I made it,” said Paul on Wednesday.
According to the track speedster, he eagerly anticipates returning to Switzerland to fine tune his skill ahead of the world’s biggest sporting stage. Maclean is an accomplished track coach at the UCI WCC and his achievements include 15 World Championships (including 1 BMX), two Olympics, two Paralympics and four Commonwealth Games.
Paul was forced to head to Switzerland some weeks before the World Championships after former national coach, Erin Hartwell, was granted leave ‘to pursue other opportunities’ by his employers, Sport Company of TT.
Strangely enough, Hartwell was then seen coaching the Chinese cycling team at the World Championships although his contract with SporTT is scheduled to be complete in September 2020.
The national team was also dealt another devastating blow when two-time Olympian Njisane Phillip and countryman Keron Bramble pulled out of the Team Sprint squad citing qualification impossible.
Paul added, “There were a lot of challenges along the way. But I chose to keep myself focused on what I wanted to achieve as an athlete. No matter what comes my way I always keep my mind on the main goal and keep pushing through. I’m going back out to give 150 percent. Olympics is the biggest stage so I need to make sure I’m always at the top of my game at this point.”
The Gasparillo-bred rider also credited Maclean and the WCC for a job well done and looked forward to returning to the UCI training camp as he gears up to face the best track cyclists in the world.
“My training programmed towards the World Championships was great. I was still able to record a personal best time at sea level and was happy with the three weeks spent there. It’s going to be a stiff competition because it’s everyone’s plan to peak at the Olympics. I just have to keep working harder, getting stronger, faster and improving my technical approach during races. That’s the main focus, Olympics, it’s even better to get the medal,” he concluded.