AFTER EIGHT years of dominating local and international taekwondo tournaments, Nicholas Elliott Jr has quit the sport in pursuit of success in the gentleman’s game – cricket.
The 16-year-old battled to gold in the Male Cadets Under 53kg division at the 2017 US Open Taekwondo International Tournament and then represented TT at the Taekwondo World Championships in South Korea that same year, among a host of other achievements.
But Elliott has been forced to discontinue his dream of becoming a pro taekwondoin for lack of funding. Although several offers to train in and among Europe’s finest fighters came pouring in after his 2017 showing, without monetary aid from either corporate TT or the Ministry of Sport, Elliott made a life-changing decision, turning his back on taekwondo at 14.
Elliott, a fifth form student at Fatima College, Mucurapo, said if he couldn’t give taekwondo his all and practice it at the highest level among the world’s best coaches and athletes, he would never sacrifice time and effort to play sport for mere recreation.
“If I didn’t have support from locals when it was financially necessary, it became impractical for me to do taekwondo at the highest level. It’s hard for me to pursue something with a limit. This was the deciding factor.
"At that time, I was at the level to compete on the world stage, and if I was being (deprived) of that opportunity, it made no sense to me, because I don’t want to just train hard for recreation,” he said recently.
The Maraval resident admits he still hasn’t fully accepted his decision to leave taekwondo but deemed it necessary.
Before he dropped it, he played cricket as a hobby (as a right-handed batsman) and also captured the TT Scrabble Association National Secondary Schools Championship Port-of-Spain Zone Juniors title in 2015, followed by a successful defence in 2016.
Now dislodged, disoriented and distant in the early stages of post-taekwondo, he began to rebel. Soon enough the former fighter eventually landed himself in hot water. But Elliott believes this was a critical turning point towards the start of a promising cricketing future.
“It wasn’t an easy transition at that level,” he said. “Since I was seven, all I knew was training at a high level.”
"When that came out of the equation, I started to party and not behave as I did before. I made many teenage mistakes and got into some trouble. However, I am grateful for these mistakes because that switched gears for me to return to sport. I told myself I had to re-programme my thoughts and responsibilities for myself.”
In 2018, Elliott shifted his focus and joined Queen’s Park Cricket Club’s (QPCC) Under-16 squad. Determined to do his best, Elliott directed all his energies into cricket and swiftly began to reap rewards.
Later that year, he was selected for the Secondary Schools Cricket League (SSCL) Under-17 boys touring team which travelled to Canada and participated in the US Open Youth Cup.
He smashed two centuries (117 vs St Anthony’s and 125 vs Success Laventille) and then bagged the Gatorade Under-16 Cricket Tournament best bowler accolade.
The right-arm pacer also grabbed the most wickets for Queen's Park Under-15 (2018) and Under-17 (2019) teams.
As Elliott continued his commitment to cricket, he was selected for the national Under-17 provisional 23-man squad but was cut from the final team.
In 2019, he was again chosen to represent the SSCL touring team in England. He scored four half-centuries and snapped up a five-wicket, four-wicket and two three-wicket hauls.
“My short-term goal is to make TT’s Under-19 team in 2021. I’m hoping my performances there takes me to the West Indies Under-19 team.
"My long-term goal is to play Test cricket for West Indies.
"For the past two years, I took cricket from the beginner’s stage. I did a lot of training. I was technically sound this season but I felt like I didn’t have enough structure in place. I trained just as hard, but not as smart,” the all-rounder explained.
Goal-driven and self-motivated, Elliott recently joined the Ultimate Pace Foundation – a specialist online bowling programme headed by former English first-class cricketer Ian Pont – to further develop his bowling action. Pont is known to have played integral roles in enhancing the talents of ace fast bowlers, Australia's Brett Lee and Pakistan's Shoaib Akhtar.
Elliott says he needs to continue educating himself about cricket, as he seeks to master the arts of both batting and bowling. In a couple months, he plans to begin another online course, based in South Africa, to enhance his batting.
He has been using the covid19 restrictions to familiarise himself with modern cricket strategies.
“I have nothing against local coaching, but I tend to change the traditional thinking in all aspects of sport and take things from a different point of view. I’m looking to maximise every second I put into training by transitioning to more online coaching because of my training style. I need to get information delivered to me in a different way for me to fully understand. It’s just what works for me,” he said.
"This downtime is a blessing in disguise for me to refocus from just buffering on what I had, to rebuilding what I have. I was able to dive deep into my bowling and finally doing some corrective work with my action.”
Elliott credited his father as well as his coaches Gregory Davis (batting) and Miguel Paty (school) for their contributions to his development as a cricketer. He also acknowledged former taekwondo coaches Edson Breedy and Sherland Flores for nurturing his discipline.
Elliott runs an Instagram page (@nicholas_cricket) dedicated to highlighting blooming cricketers.
He concluded, “Taekwondo is now the past. I enjoy training cricket more and it has a lot more for me in terms of the future – I can pursue it as a career. Sport as a job: it doesn’t get better than that.
"I have a goal to bowl above 80mph within the next six months. It’s just a matter of time. I’m never pleased at how much progress I’ve made, and this is what drives me. I don’t ever want to plateau.
"If I don’t motivate myself to get better, who’s going to do it for me?”
The former taekwondo athlete is a 2012 World Championship Children’s Taekwondo qualifier gold medal winner, Pan American Junior Open Championship silver medallist (2012) and 2015 Suriname Taekwondo Open gold medallist.