Home / Olympic Games / Worse than gymnastics! Njisane cries sabotage over late staff alteration by TTCF

Worse than gymnastics! Njisane cries sabotage over late staff alteration by TTCF

As Trinidad and Tobago’s 32 elite athletes celebrated the formal announcement of their qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympic games, 25 year old national cyclist Njisane Phillip was left confused and incensed after discovering, through the media, that a key member of his support staff will not fly to Brazil to assist his medal quest.

Phillip wanted fellow cyclist Varun Maharaj to accompany him to Rio as his soigneur and the Trinidad and Tobago Cycling Federation (TTCF) agreed, via email, on 14 June 2016. Maharaj and mechanic Elisha Greene were Phillip’s two picks.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago cyclist Njisane Phillip. (Copyright Track Cycling News)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago cyclist Njisane Phillip.
(Copyright Track Cycling News)

However, as the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) announced its contingent for Rio, Phillip was stunned to discover that Maharaj was not going while he would have a team manager, David Francis, instead. Francis is also the TTCF’s assistant racing secretary.

Iconic former Trinidad and Tobago cyclist and Hall of Fame inductee Gene “Geronimo” Samuel did not mince words as he accused the TTCF for caring more about free trips than the welfare of its athletes.

“Njisane doesn’t need a manager because it is not as if there a few cyclists are going. But we have guys who want to go on a trip and don’t know what to do with an athlete. Right away you have taken away from Njisane’s chances.

“They are worse than gymnastics… If you are there to support the athlete, you must support the athlete. Whoever he is comfortable with, you must take. He did all the ground work for the last year and a half, and now that he has qualified they want to get a trip out of it.”

Phillip, who is based in Canada at present, has written to the TTOC in a desperate attempt to have the local body reverse its decision. He spelt out the importance of his two-man team.

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Photo: Trinidad and Tobago cyclist Varun Maharaj (left) celebrates during the 2015 Southern Games.
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago cyclist Varun Maharaj (left) celebrates during the 2015 Southern Games.

“I asked that Elijah Greene travel as my mechanic as he has been with me through the last three years at all events and through my qualification process,” stated Phillip. “Varun has been a training partner, helper, right hand and left hand. He knows my needs and what needs to be done to prepare me to race. He can warm me up before my races and prepare with me for race day.

“These are the two people I need to be able to perform on race day. I made this clear in a meeting with the TTCF and they agreed that what I need is priority.”

However, TTCF president Robert Farrier said the relevant body, the racing committee, considered Phillip’s request and disagreed. He insisted that the decision was made democratically and followed due process.

The problem, according to Farrier, was the TTOC could only fund two officials to accompany a single athlete. And the eight-member racing committee, which is chaired by Joseph Roberts, decided to send Francis instead.

Francis, incidentally, is the assistant secretary of the racing committee and a TTCF executive member.

“The TTOC said we could only afford two officials and not three,” Farrier told Wired868. “So the services of the soigneur would be provided by other people who would be multi-tasking. [Francis] has travelled with Njisane on several occasions to a number of qualifying events whereas [Maharaj] has never travelled as a soigneur before [but only as a teammate]. He is not a qualified soigneur.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis (far left) and games committee members (from right) Dr Terrence Ali, Ian Hypolite and Diane Henderson announce their decision to select gymnast Marisa Dick on their contingent for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on 2 May 2016. Missing from the photograph is games committee member Annette Knott who was abroad. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis (far left) and games committee members (from right) Dr Terrence Ali, Ian Hypolite and Diane Henderson announce their decision to select gymnast Marisa Dick on their contingent for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on 2 May 2016.
Missing from the photograph is games committee member Annette Knott who was abroad.
(Courtesy Wired868)

Could anyone else on the technical team take on the responsibility of the manager?

Did the TTCF’s racing committee believe it better understood Phillip’s needs than a cyclist who is heading into his second Olympic Games? Or that it had superior knowledge than former Pan American champion and record holder, Samuel?

Farrier responded: “Of course!”

“A cyclist is not a runner, a cyclist needs support… A soigneur is a gofer. He bring your helmet, brings your towel. The manager’s role started months ago when [Phillip] qualified. [Francis] was attending meetings at the TTOC, making sure all the documents were done properly and so on.

“In cycling, there are a number of managerial tasks that need to take place from race confirmation to managing the event on the day. When you look at the aspects of that there is no way a soigneur can perform those tasks, especially if he had never done it before.

“You need somebody who can multi-task and this manager is very experienced. When he comes back [from Rio] he has to do a full report too, he not going there for a lime.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Cycling Federation (TTCF) president Robert Farrier (right) and general secretary Jacqueline Corbin. (Copyright Trinidad Guardian)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Cycling Federation (TTCF) president Robert Farrier (right) and general secretary Jacqueline Corbin.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

Samuel scoffed at Farrier’s suggestion that Phillips did not know what he needed most in Rio.

“A president who never represented Trinidad and Tobago says a cyclist doesn’t know what he needs,” Samuel retorted, “that alone should tell you.”

He tried to explain the importance of a soigneur for an international cyclist.

“[A soigneur] is like a massage therapist,” said Samuel. “I had only two people ever touch my legs in my whole career and one guy who ever touched my legs on race day. It is about knowing the athlete. A good therapist can touch you and immediately know if something is different about your muscles.

“They go for everything for you. It is so important. No team travels without a proper soigneur. We are 15 years behind. I am just flabbergasted…

“Our constitution says the racing committee has the final say. But I am shocked that anybody is trying to go ahead of Varun and Elijah. They should be ashamed of themselves. It shows the lack of integrity they have.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago cyclist Njisane Phillip in action. (Courtesy TTOC)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago cyclist Njisane Phillip in action.
(Courtesy TTOC)

Francis claimed that he was taken aback by the reaction to his role on “Team Njisane.” He insisted that he had only the cyclist’s best interests at heart.

“As the manager, I am responsible for all meetings that would be required prior to the cyclist taking part,” said Francis. “From the registration to the presentation of the uniform [and] any issue that would arise during the event. I have to make sure the athlete has everything in place to be able to represent us.

“To me, the part of the manager is most essential in that we have the athlete prepared and in the right frame of mind. We are focused on the athlete.”

But what if the cyclist, Phillip, did not want him there?

Francis said he was willing to “sacrifice” his position on the Olympic contingent. But only if the TTCF asked him to do so.

“If it comes down to us making a sacrifice, the Federation will have the final say,” Francis told Wired868. “I am ready to step aside if the Federation asks me to… I didn’t know it was an issue.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago cyclist Njisane Phillip. (Courtesy TTOC)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago cyclist Njisane Phillip.
(Courtesy TTOC)

Phillip Whiteman, the national cyclist’s stepdad, insisted that the disruption of the Phillip’s team was a major issue and accused the TTCF of acting deceitfully. He attempted to draw parallels to the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation’s controversial last minute switch of Thema Williams for her alternate, Marisa Dick.

Whiteman explained that the TTCF told Maharaj he was on the staff for Rio and even asked for his uniform sizes. If the racing committee took a vote, the decision was apparently not shared with Phillip or Maharaj.

Instead, they got the bad news in the media. Whiteman said he had not spoken to Maharaj yet since he simply did not know what to say to him.

“Njisane said this might be his last trip for Trinidad,” Whiteman told Wired868. “It is too much bacchanal. When it comes to the Games, they say they are in charge and they want to dictate what he does…

“Cycling is his life and they are playing around with his life.”

But Francis countered that the TTCF only wants to help, although both parties differed about the value of the Federation’s assistance.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation officials (from right) Ricardo Lue Shue, Elicia Peters-Charles and David Marquez pose with Sport Minister Darryl Smith (second from right). Former star cyclist Gene "Geronimo" Samuel claimed that the Trinidad and Tobago Cycling Federation (TTCF) is worse than the TTGF. (Courtesy Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation officials (from right) Ricardo Lue Shue, Elicia Peters-Charles and David Marquez pose with Sport Minister Darryl Smith (second from right).
Former star cyclist Gene “Geronimo” Samuel claimed that the Trinidad and Tobago Cycling Federation (TTCF) is worse than the TTGF.
(Courtesy Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs)

“Njisane has an excellent chance to medal and he has the full support of the Federation,” said Francis. “We have done everything that was humanly possible to make sure he qualified [for the Olympics]. We have been extremely supportive and we have gone beyond [the call of duty].”

Wired868 asked for an example of the TTCF’s support to Phillip.

“For every event that was a qualifier, we made sure he was able to attend it with the support staff that was required,” said Francis. “The Federation, through the Sport Company, made sure he was able to attend all the qualifiers.

“He, as I told him already, did exceedingly well to qualify. And now that he is there, his chances of qualifying are excellent.”

Whiteman retorted that he personally applied for funding on Phillip’s behalf and dared anyone to prove differently. He insisted too that the TTCF officials who accompanied his stepson rarely added anything to his efforts.

Photo: Njisane Phillip acknowledges the crowd at the London 2012 Olympic Games. (Copyright Track Cycling News)
Photo: Njisane Phillip acknowledges the crowd at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
(Copyright Track Cycling News)

For Samuel, the decision to send Francis ahead of Maharaj was the last straw and he called on the Trinidad and Tobago public to make their voices heard in protest.

“Our racing committee is made up of some people who never rode a bike before… That doesn’t mean they can’t contribute but they have to be open minded and ask questions. But these guys just use the power of the constitutions to see who gets a trip this time.

“I have stayed quiet for years but it is time that Trinidad and Tobago understands what us going on here. Any official who shows up and wants to deprive Njisane of having the best chance possible, should be ashamed.”

Samuel admitted that, for him, the matter was personal. Geronimo was 24 when he qualified for his first Olympics and he placed fourth in the time trial and missed a bronze medal by a fraction of a second.

Even today, Samuel believes that, with the support of local cycling officials, he would have mounted the podium in Los Angeles. He does not want Phillip to suffer the same fate.

Photo: Iconic Trinidad and Tobago cyclist Gene "Geronimo" Samuel during his heyday. (Copyright Caribbean Beat)
Photo: Iconic Trinidad and Tobago cyclist Gene “Geronimo” Samuel during his heyday.
(Copyright Caribbean Beat)

“If they followed my instructions, I would  have gotten a silver not just a bronze. But the president wanted a trip. My event was one race against the clock but [Phillip’s] is more serious as he has to go through different rounds. It hurts to see that, 32 years later, we are still going through the same nonsense.

“You think Usain [Bolt] would go to the Olympics with a masseuse who doesn’t know him? Warming up is the most important thing… The one time I had someone there to warm me up [at the Havana 1991 Pan American Games], I set the world record that still stands today.

“You are supposed to be relaxed mentally before a race because cycling is very stressful and it is a matter of what is important for the athlete. This is a blow to Njisane mentally and he almost gave up cycling a few years ago, because it is very hard to keep going when you feel your officials don’t support you.

“They are playing they don’t understand the athlete [because] they are just looking for trips for each other and they don’t have the best interest of the athlete at heart. If it wasn’t for Njisane then all of them vex because they have no trips to go on.”

Whiteman insisted that, despite the issues, Phillip is determine to return from Rio with a medal for Trinidad and Tobago.

Photo: Njisane Nicholas Phillip celebrates after defeating Germany's Robert Forstemann during the London 2012 Olympic Games men's sprint round at the Velodrome in the Olympic Park in East London on 4 August 2012. (Copyright AFP 2016/Leon Neal)
Photo: Njisane Nicholas Phillip celebrates after defeating Germany’s Robert Forstemann during the London 2012 Olympic Games men’s sprint round at the Velodrome in the Olympic Park in East London on 4 August 2012.
(Copyright AFP 2016/Leon Neal)

“[His family] put out the money and he put out the effort,” he said, “and now that we got him here, they want to jump in and get a trip. My son said ‘David is a good guy but I need Varun’. This means so much to him…

“But, no matter what, we are going to medal!”

The TTCF president believes Francis will be more valuable to Phillip’s medal hopes in Rio than Maharaj. Phillip disagrees and is imploring the TTOC to intervene for the sake of his Olympic dreams.

 

Editor’s Note: Cycling manager David Francis decided to step aside on 16 July, after two days of discussions between the TTCF and the TTOC, to allow Varun Maharaj to accompany Njisane Phillips to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Click HERE to read about the TTCF climbdown.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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179 comments

  1. Mr. Francis, it’s the right thing to do.

  2. Cycling manager David Francis steps aside: Njisane Phillips gets his Rio 2016 Olympic soigneur, as TTCF backs down to allow national cyclist his preferred support staff
    http://wired868.com/2016/07/16/francis-withdraws-ttcf-backs-down-over-njisanes-support-staff-demands/

  3. Athlete first. He is in a position to ask for who he wants.

  4. Sherdon, here’s an anecdote from Steve Bruce on Sir Alex Ferguson:
    “It’s no fluke that United always scored in the last minute. It wasn’t coaching. It was belief. He instilled belief that his teams have to win. He created a sense of invincibility. He was a genius.
    ‘This is what he was like. We were at Manchester town hall, a civic reception, because we’d won the League again. All suited and booted, of course. Red tie, white shirt, grey slacks, blazer, the big crest.
    ‘Eric turns up. He’s been growing this beard. He’s got long hair, ripped jeans, flip flops and this multi-coloured coat down to his knees, one of those real hippy ones.
    ‘Now, the players had fines that went into a pot, and we’d spend it on a day out at Chester races end of the season. So the players were all looking at Eric, and they weren’t having it. I was captain and they said, “Go to Fergie, make sure he knows Cantona needs a fine”.
    ‘So I sidled over. “Boss, the lads aren’t happy with Eric’s appearance”. Fergie’s on the red wine. He puts down his glass, looks over at Eric. “Tell them from me, Steve,” he says, “that if they can play like him next year, they can all come as f***ing Joseph”.’

  5. What is wrong with these people . Why why why distress a person at this time. Why…..can’t something be done to fix this. When people don’t have good intentions towards others they must expect Karma at its best!!!

  6. The TTCF are shameless. Give the athlete what he says he needs to succeed. Its not about you, TTFA, its about the athlete Njisane. Njisane is the one who put in the hard work, give the man what he needs. You may want to go but his needs are more important! Damn it do the right thing by this young man who put in the sweat!!.

  7. Sooo..am I to understand that there is no one keeping local sporting bodies in check as far as national affairs?!

  8. Olympics should be about the athlete’s not the officials. Too many “officials” are just going on all inclusive vacations. Time to focus on the athlete’s needs if we are serious about really winning medals

  9. Last Olympics Njisane came sooo close to winning a medal. This time around he just might if everything is in place and all the ducks are in a row. Why would you deliberately fling a ball and upset the alignment? It’s once every 4 years. Can’t the manager squeeze a free trip some other time?

  10. These people think they are equally or more important than the athlete …Everybody just want a tour ….they just disgusting…to the other sporting disciplines, look out, they coming

  11. What the hell is going with these people ? Just so at this 12th hour ..that is real bull crap if you ask me .

  12. There we go again. Shooting ourself in the foot before the race even start

  13. NJISANE NEEDS TO NOT GO WITHOUT WHO HE WANTS …

  14. You are part of “team Njisane” and the athlete himself prefers someone else.This is “rape”……Lol…..we are such jokers in some instances eh….

  15. 2 suitcase for shopping and d address for the best hoehouse in brasil so to hell with phillip ent cou

  16. Set ah friggin dunce in power but that is what we vote for

  17. I agree with Gene Samuel TTCF only sending members on free trip on the expense of cyclist send Varun he is more qualify

  18. Ttoc has not made correct decisions when they need to. If it was agreed previously why go back. They are missing a glorious chance. In short they are idiots with their own agenda.

  19. Allyuh to f$@k up in this place. Deh f$@k up thema now they want to do nijane the same. The boy ask for he two people, give him his two people please. Allyuh eh fed up mess up athletes in this country.

  20. Man i am so fed up of these local sporting bodies , they’re like little fiefdoms , run by people who care little for those who matter..

  21. Give him what make’s him comfortable and forget the rest

  22. Greed for trip in associations is ubiquitous!

  23. Smh. That is complete and utter BS. How can you mess with the man’s regime and training team SO close to the games?!? Not only that, but not even have the balls to tell him nor the man that was being replaced??? They hear it through the media. Same BS throughout each federation I see. We need a complete overhaul of the system bcs this same madness is going to continue on with the exact same results every time.

  24. What they fail to realize is that it is not about them. It is about the athlete and who he feels comfortable with and who will help him perform to the best of their ability. It is not about them. But greed is a serious thing. This is serious business, you don’t mess with professional athletes decisions in a time like this. You have to suck it up and respect it.

  25. Mr Sports Minister time to earn your pay…Step in NOW!!

  26. SHAME……. SHAME…….SHAME

  27. When dexter had qualified for beijing in 2008. They were all jumping on the case to go. Lol. Dex wanted me to go with him and these officials in the association did not want that. So dex made it very clear and told them if he does not get want he wants he will not go. They backed off.

  28. Tired of the bullshit, where is the Sports Minister in all of this.

    • The IOC rules spout a lot of werbiage about no political interference. Bottom line the local Oh Limpid Committee can accept funds from government agencies but they have no say nor can they interfere.

    • Let the Minister stay just where he is. Govt does not elect these private Organisations that have there rules and report to the governing international bodies. The athletes do not run organizations They are represented by them. He has a choice stay or go or make use of the support allowed you This business is no emotional roller coaster. Money not flowing like rain no more. We have too many chiefs.

  29. Jowan Ortega i can’t even. They will never learn

  30. Hahahahha yes indeed. These associations are ALL the same. Man hungry for food (trip ) . Disgusting behaviour.

  31. When will those responsible for the care of our athletes put them and T&T first? When will eat a food and nepotism stop. Time for air tight contracts that include a clause that penalties/ termination can be applied if ‘they’ are found to be working against the interest of the athletes/T&T. Who pay them the big $..anyway.

  32. Lol. The ugly word for it is ping pong!

  33. doing the same thing over and over and getting the same result is madness, but I believe since no one in T&T make s jail, everyone believe they can do the same (no transparency and accountability) and get away. its the norm in T&T.

  34. Also, the cost for a ticket fromTobago to Brazil on GOL Airlines is only US$600. Let those who want a free trip pay for themselves.

  35. Lewis and his TTOC crew don’t seem to get it. Nepotism is still the order of the day.

  36. where is the transparency in the selection of athletes, something smells fishy here, which means something stinks here

  37. He wants Varun, give him Varun, end of story!

  38. just out of curiosity,, why was Roger Daniels ommitted, who to my knowledge Has been consistent. was he not preparing over the last 4 years, or is this another decison made high up and disregard the athletes

  39. The TTCF makes it appear that a Manager’s position is vital to the athlete performance, it is NOT….That belief is over stated. The Manager’s portfolio is basically to provide colours..(.in team sport Principal and Secondary) go to meetings to establish protocol and rules, secure any other requirement necessary which the athlete wouldn’t have the time to do. and any other GO-FOR functions, anyone with any Managerial experience could perform those duties AND you are informed re meetings times dates etc…SO NO biggie. Whereas a Trainer Coach Massage therapist and in this case a training partner are all necessary personnel. All the functions they spoke of were local and do not relate to when you are on tour. In this case they are infringing on the athletes mental conditioning, having someone around who is not accustomed to his routine is useless and detrimental to the athlete.We are looking at a PROSPECTIVE MEDAL OPPORTUNITY …to the TTCF ..Please reconsider the selection of your team for RIO….to be exact..DAVID FRANCIS FOR VIRAN MAHARAJ…it happened with Gene, it happened with Gymnastics..don’t allow it to happen again for the sake of a ride to RIO.

    • Mervyn, Don’t you have any porridge that needs you to blow on it to cool it down? Your breath is put to much better use doing that than trying to talk to these f—king self-important people we habitually put in charge of our sports.

  40. just the mere fact Njisane had to find out Maraj and Greene through
    the media, shows your total disregard. the TTCF always put self first not the requirement of the athlete

  41. are you a masseur Mr Francis and TTCF (nepotism)

  42. SHAME! SHAME! SHAME! SHAME! SHAME! SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!