NICHOLAS PAUL ended a 30-year drought when he became Trinidad and Tobago’s first cyclist to grab a world cycling medal after legendary national cyclist Gene Samuel accomplished the feat in 1991. Samuel was brought to tears following Paul’s historic ride.
Paul, 23, copped a silver medal in the men’s 1k (kilometre) time trial at the 2021 International Cycling Union (UCI) Track Cycling World Championships in Roubaix, France.
Paul made amends after narrowly missing out on a medal in the men’s keirin event on Thursday when he ended in fourth position.
Paul, who made his Olympic debut this year at the Tokyo Games, sprinted to the line in 59.791 seconds. Winning gold was Dutchman Jeffrey Hoogland in 58.418 and grabbing bronze was German Joachim Eilers in 1:00.008. Less than three seconds separated the eight finalists.
Paul's silver-medal performance was TT's best showing ever at the World Championships.
The first cyclist from TT to snatch a medal at a World Championships was Roger Gibbon when he took bronze in the 1k event in Amsterdam in 1967. Like Paul, he was 23 at the time.
TT had to wait 24 more years to get a second medal when Samuel earned bronze in the 1k time trial at the World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany in 1991. He was 30 at the time.
“I am so elated (for Paul) because the country is in a mess. We need some good positive vibes,” Samuel told Newsday.
“I could only imagine, but I know what his parents and what he is going through right now. I was in tears in 1991.”
Samuel was then moved to tears while saying, “I am happy for him…fantastic…congratulations Nicholas, your team, your mother, your father. Congratulations on behalf of TT.”
Samuel said Paul is benefitting from training at the UCI Centre in Switzerland.
“We are blessed in the Caribbean with natural talent," he said. "We just don’t have the support from the Government. The mere fact that Nicholas is getting the opportunity to be in the UCI school in Switzerland (with) world renowned coaches, science behind you, faster tracks and better equipment (is great). It is going to come down to once everything is fine on the day, it is going to come down to talent and I know we are blessed in the Caribbean.”
Samuel pleaded with sports administrators to support the athletes.
“We need proper management, proper officials that putting the athletes first because I have no doubt that Njisane Phillip should have medalled at the Olympics.”
Phillip, who is still an active national cyclist, finished fourth in the men’s sprint at the 2012 London Olympics.
Samuel believes in Paul’s talent and has lofty goals for the cyclist from Gasparillo.
“I did say (on Thursday) that I expect quite a few gold medals eventually from Nicholas Paul.”
Samuel reminded the TT public that finishing in the top ten is an incredible achievement and falling short of a medal is not a failure.
Samuel said TT must respect cyclists on the road in order for us to produce more successful riders. He urged people to “share the road.”
President of the TT Cycling Federation Rowena Williams was proud of Paul. “Right now I am still basking in the joy and the excitement of the moment,” Williams said.
“I think for the entire fraternity everybody is really excited…everybody is just so elated. This is definitely an historic moment for us and we can’t ask for anything better than what we got from Nicholas.”
TT women’s cyclist Teniel Campbell congratulated Paul on Twitter saying, “South people doing d dammm (damn) thing!”
Paul will compete in the men’s sprint qualifying from 5.44 am (TT time), on Saturday. The other rounds of competition will be held throughout the day.