Home / Rio 2016 / Thank you! Njisane grateful to TTCF but explains why Rio will be his swan song

Thank you! Njisane grateful to TTCF but explains why Rio will be his swan song

Trinidad and Tobago international cyclist Njisane Phillip has expressed gratitude to local cycling official David Francis and the Trinidad and Tobago Cycling Federation (TTCF) for allowing him to take his proposed soigneur, Varun Maharaj, to next month’s Olympic Games.

However, Phillip said the TTCF’s change of heart will not affect his plan to retire from international cycling. And he rubbished suggestions that he has considered or plans to consider representing any nation but 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)

Phillip had his Rio 2016 plans thrown into disarray on Thursday when he learned, via the media, that Francis would accompany him to Rio as team manager at Maharaj’s expense.

TTCF president Robert Farrier said the decision was made based on precedent and the feeling of the race committee that a manager was more important for the cyclist than a soigneur. The Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) only allowed the TTCF to send two officials to Rio.

The cycling body’s choice and explanation provoked a furious response from Phillip and retired Pan American champion and cycling icon, Gene “Geronimo” Samuel.

“Varun has been a training partner, helper, right hand and left hand,” said Phillip, at the time. “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…

“I made this clear in a meeting with the TTCF (in March 2016) and they agreed that what I need is priority.”

A public uproar plus successful mediation by TTOC president Brian Lewis saw Francis voluntarily withdraw as manager, on Saturday 16 July, so Maharaj could be accredited alongside mechanic Elijah Greene.

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 am happy and I want to thank Mr Francis,” said Phillip. “I really appreciate it.”

However, the former Shiva Boys Hindu College student said he will not reverse his decision to retire, since it was made in advance of the TTCF’s decision.

He described the stresses and financial strain that goes into him representing Trinidad and Tobago at this level. And, after riding since he was nine years old, “J-Boy” thinks it is time for him to move on.

“I have given the sport 16 years of my life and now I am thinking about my future,” Phillip told Wired868. “I want to do cool things. I want to go to the movies with my family too and go down the islands and just do normal Trini stuff…

“I did what I can do to the best of my ability. After this, I will give up cycling. We had a great journey. She has showed me the world, I saw things that i would never have seen in my life.”

Phillip intends to go out in a blaze of glory with the Trinidad and Tobago flag flying high. And, with his soigneur by his side, he now feels he has the best chance for a successful swan song.

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)

Editor’s Note: Wired868 will publish a full feature on Njisane Phillip, as Part Two of our series on the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, which began with a feature on 400 metre hurdler, Jehue Gordon.

AboutLasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and 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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18 comments

  1. So great to know that some officials really do have the well being of the athlete at heart.

  2. And there is still time for him to recharge his batteries and reconsider. 😉

  3. An all too familiar, melancholy tune. Sigh.

    I wish Njisane all the best at Rio and beyond, and thank him for his national service.

  4. Nobody really knows the sacrifices that athletes make to represent at the highest level. Partying and liming literally gets put on hold. I think about Thema giving up her scholarship for nothing. I wish Njisane all the best after the Olympics. Hopefully he has a plan to further his studies and have a successful career after cycling. Who knows if an Olympic medal is on the cards he might change his mind about giving up cycling altogether. I’m not sure what is a lucrative career path for a retired world class cyclist…what sort of income can be gained from endorsements etc. Hopefully he has a good team to help him plan for this.

  5. Earl Best

    People who speak French see where the problem lay; it was nothing but a typo. Instead of a sOigneur (somebody to take care of him), the TTCF thought he wanted a sEigneur (somebody to boss him around). Once Njisane publicly corrected that spelling error, magic! Problem solved..

  6. or ride for a country that respects his sport and his ability

  7. Lasana Liburd, take a bow for making this a front burner issue and for equating the TTCF with the TTGF. If only for shame alone no one wants to be noted as their sport’s equivalent of the TTGF administration. Finally at least one athlete can truly focus on his sport alone.

    • Actually, Gene Samuel takes the credit for equating the TTCF with the TTGF. And interestingly, the TTCF president pointed out (without hearing Gene or being prompted) that they certainly were NOT the TTGF.
      So it seems that the TTGF is now the unwritten standard bearer for poor sport governance and anti-athlete behaviour.

    • I am happy at least that his appeal was heard. Thema’s appeals to be reinstated at the test event were ignored by TTGF.

  8. It it is still sad when an athlete considers retirement at that age though. I hope he just needs to recharge his batteries.

    • We have to acknowledge that certain sports in this small country don’t receive the financial support that they should given the talent pool at present. I know some choose to walk away because the candle ends up burning at both ends and costs more than the funeral.
      (Meticulously mixed matching metaphors.)

    • To be honest, when you add up match fees over the years, a decent footballer like Radanfah Abu Bakr will probably earn a lot more from representing his country than an Olympic medalist like say Marc Burns, who was among the top ten sprinters in the world.

  9. Oh to have been a fly on the wall for that mediation… What a reversal.