“Regardless of how confident you look when you come out on stage, I don’t care who you are, you are freaking out inside,” said Trinidad and Tobago cycling sprint star Njisane Phillip. “You could lose. You’re understanding what I’m saying? You could lose. That’s what in your mind.
“Every athlete has that in his mind. And you want that comfort that, yo, even if I do lose, you got me. That makes a big difference.”
The 25 year old Phillip is in his second Olympic Games at Rio and he intends for it to be his last. Phillip, or “J-Boy” to his friends, plans to go out in a blaze of glory.
He shared his thoughts in a hard-hitting interview with Wired868 before the 2016 Olympics. This is part two:
Wired868: Do you visualise your race before you reach the starting line?
Njisane Phillip: I try to visualise every single race. I think that helped me in the last Olympics. I consider ever angle and every way the race can go. I race these people in my head, every single day. So when the race comes, I know exactly what I should do for every situation.
For the past four years, the races have been really bad for me because i just did them to qualify. I was really messed up man, I was really dark… I wasn’t aiming for an ‘A’, I was settling for the ‘C’… All I cared about was the Olympic Games. It is hard to explain and I don’t know if people would understand.
Wired868: Was that due to the problems in your cycling programme?
Phillip: (Nods head) Everything felt like it was crumbling. I had no coach, I had no support… I don’t want to come [across as] angry. I am not angry because I know what it is. When I sit down and talk to people that is how I get it out…
It has been frustrating. Coming into the [London 2012 Olympics], I was in a programme for two and a half years. And then everything was just squashed. I did a training camp in Germany [and] I went back to LA. [But] I didn’t have a coach, I didn’t have any support or anyone to really lean on. I had to do it on my own. And from 2013 to the beginning of this year [when I started training with the Canada national team], I have been doing it on my own. I’ve been coaching myself.
The [Trinidad and Tobago Cycling] Federation hasn’t provided any national coach or anything, I just did it on my own.
Wired868: How was the pre-London 2012 Olympic camp arranged?
Phillip: It was an agreement between the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee and the US Olympic Committee, so I was able to train [there]. It was [IOC] politics, just like [you have] in football. (Laughs). I know what’s going to happen now. I go to the Rio Olympics and I do well. Canada definitely won’t want me here again. So what is my next step? Go through this again for another four years?
I have a life to live too… I want to do cool things. I want to go to the movies with my family too. I want to go down the islands on the weekend. (Laughs).
Wired868: Your gift is cycling; are you scared to put it down?
Phillip: I won’t say I am scared… I think i enjoyed it how i was supposed to. I learned a lot of discipline, I learned hard work. I learned how to control my emotions and balance off myself. It helped me a lot in life [and] thought me a lot of lessons.
I turned pro early and I was out there living in a foreign country at 17 years old, having money and nobody to tell you what you shouldn’t do. So I did a lot of dumb, crazy things. I remember a point in my life when I had like 200 pairs of shoes, just in boxes for no reason. (Laughs). I was just doing dumb stuff. I have learned a lot about rainy days.
Wired868: Can you tell us a bit about growing up with ADD (attention deficit disorder)?
Phillip: People didn’t know it [then] and they would always just say that I was bad. I would always get in trouble in school [at Shiva Boys Hindu College] for like talking in class and stuff like that. The real problem was I couldn’t focus. I would be doing a test in school and do about six questions. And I would get to number seven and and can’t figure it out and it would drive me crazy. And I would just say: ‘Steups, forget this’. And I would start to do something else like talk to the man next to me. I might break a pencil and pelt at [someone].
It wasn’t badness, I just couldn’t control myself. Sometimes I would just sit down and shake. It was ADD and anxiety too. Sometimes when I had it really bad, I’d just get up and walk or just do something. Now I know what it is but as a kid I didn’t. Then, I might just go outside and run or ride my bike when I wasn’t supposed to. So it was licks. (Laughs). But I think [information about ADD] is out there more now and a lot of kids know [about] it.
I want to start a foundation for kids who suffer with anxiety and attention deficit disorder. I think those are the kids that are going to be tomorrow’s athletes because they have that drive and energy and they have good spirits. They’re passionate and energetic and they just want to do stuff and they just need to find something that they like and can put themselves in…
Wired868: How did sport help you?
Phillip: At 15, I had to stop cycling because I moved back to Trinidad and my mom didn’t like me riding on the roads in Trinidad. So she took me out of it. So I was going to school and [I was getting in trouble so] the dean sent me to get an evaluation by a psychiatrist. And we did this evaluation and this when we found out I had ADD.
And [the psychiatrist] said you need to put him in a sport and let him get some of this energy out. And that is how I started cycling again. It helped because that was my way of releasing it.
Wired868: Where did you ride and was it dangerous?
Phillip: I would ride from the Siparia Erin Road to San Fernando and then ride down the creek and then come through Fyzabad to Siparia. Yeah [it can be dangerous] but that is something I don’t really want to comment on. It is a high risk sport… you are riding at 60 mph, so if a wheel buss—whether you are riding on the road or a track—it’s over. Anything can happen…
Wired868: What plays on your mind more before a race? Is it the fear of losing or the joy of winning that drives you?
Phillip: The fear of losing is definitely more. I am being 100 percent honest. I want people to read this and feel me… Before when I was a bit younger, I used to go out there and have fun. I would say I am going to blaze you down. It didn’t matter who you are or where you are from, that was my mindset. But when I was going through my hard times and I started sometimes not even making the top eight [at events], I started to get depressed. It went from going out there to race and have fun, to going out there and being afraid to lose. I’m so afraid to lose that I’m not trying hard enough. I’m so afraid to lose that I lose!
So my motivation right now is different. So much emotion and thought goes into this, that when the regular person says: ‘You’re only 25, why are you trying to retire and be a diva?’ But it’s not that. People don’t know what is going on inside when they look at us on [the sports news]…
Athletes can be scared sometimes about the politics thing too. We are afraid to speak out about our funding because if we piss somebody off, we won’t get it ever again. That is fear and that is not fair. We are not doing allyuh favours, that is what you are supposed to be there for. I have been ranked top 40 for the last seven or so years and I have never received my full funding. Never, never, never. Never ever. Even when I placed fourth [at the 2012 Olympic Games], I didn’t get my TT$250,000.
And I read that article [on Wired868] with Marc Burns and he said the same thing. Sometimes I get TT$150,000. There is a lot of bullshit that goes on in that Sport Company. I’m just speaking facts. A lot of money is spent on football but, when it comes to glory for country, track and field wins. They produce every time…
The pressure of the Olympics is so great, Usain Bolt can go there and false start and it’s all over… It is the simple little things. They feel we are superheroes to just throw it together and win. No. Talent can only get you so far… I really wish they could change something because Trinidad and Tobago shouldn’t have just 32 athletes [at the Olympics]. We need to have more cyclists, more sailing, more track and field, more events. We only have sprinters. Who [do] we have in the 800 [metres]? Who [do] we have in the 1,500? We don’t even have people for that. Come onnnnn!
Wired868: So you are better now that Varun Maharaj was allowed to travel as your soigneur?
Phillip: (Nods head). People need to understand that if I had a track and field team, I wouldn’t want anybody to go with me because I would have a shoulder to lean on. It is a difference when you travel with a team to when you are a lone soldier… Athletes freak out and it helps to know you are not going through that alone. [That] it’s alright.
If I take you to the Olympics now and I’m getting ready for the final, how can I really connect with you? Yeah, I am talking to you for an hour but we don’t have that relationship where I can tell you: (Loud whisper) I am fucking nervous, yo! (Laughs).
I remember I was in Manchester [for the 2013 UCI Cycling Track World Cup] and I didn’t care. I was [down and] thinking ‘whatever’. And Varun was: (In animated voice) Dawg! Today, I feel you’re going to do something special! (Phillip went on to place second). I remember that in Manchester and it brought tears to me eyes.
They’re saying it is just a lime [for Maharaj]. Yo, it is just a lime for allyuh!
Regardless of how confident you look when you come out on stage, I don’t care who you are, you are freaking out inside. You could lose. You’re understanding what I’m saying? You could lose. That’s what in your mind. Every athlete has that in his mind. And you want that comfort that, yo, even if I do lose, you got me. That makes a big difference. Me just being able to put it out in the universe that I am nervous. It makes you feel much better… I need someone that I cry with and show my emotions and show that I am human and then wipe away tears and laugh. That is what these people don’t understand.
I didn’t complain for someone to go with me for Pan Am and so on when there were other riders… I didn’t want to go through all of this. I wanted to do my race nice and calm and retire cool. (Smiles).
Wired868: How do you psyche yourself up for the race?
Phillip: I listen to a lot of music and [absorb] the energy of the arena. There are so many different people and cultures, I really love that atmosphere. A lot of people fold under that pressure but I like it. (Smiles). Everybody is looking at me and I’m thinking: ‘Time to do my thing.’ You have to ball out.
That has always been my strong point. When the race is big, I love it. I love to perform.
Wired868: What’s on your race day playlist?
Phillip: Future, Fresh Montana, Popcaan, Vybz Kartel, Bunji, Machel. I listen to all kinds of music. When I wake up in the morning, I don’t want to start fast-paced. So I might listen to old school reggae like a Bob Marley or Sizzla or Jah Cure.
I like [Marley’s] ‘Coming in from the cold’. I love that song. And stuff like ‘One Love’. Those are just songs from my childhood which bring back good memories of spending time with my dad [Nicholson Phillip] and it just keeps me calm. Because you want to keep your mind as positive as possible. [To] any negative thoughts: F**k you…
When I go into the venue, I’m listening to Tupac’s “All eyes on me” or “Still Dre”. Stuff that is still slow but you’re now starting to get a little aggressive too…
Then you start the warm up and you have the soca playlist. I like to listen to old school soca like “Pump your flag”, “Advantage”, “Island”, “Clear the road”, “Fete”. Not some of the garbage you hear now. Soca!
And then when it is time to race, you hit that rap music just to give you that little swag and that little vibe. I listen to Future’s songs like “Rotation”, “Mad Luv” or I listen to Fresh Montana.
And then it is go time! (Smiles).
Wired868: What does the Rio Olympics mean for you?
Phillip: The Olympics for me… Honestly, the work has been done. Now it is just execution. Do or die. Now it is just to go there and have fun and showcase your talent and the best man wins.
The real challenge is qualifying but I am here now. I want to go out there and represent my country as best as I can and just have a nice last race. (Smiles).
It is my time to shine!
Editor’s Note: Click HERE for part one as Njisane Phillip takes Wired868 into a Bulls**t Free Zone, as he opens up on his life of sacrifice, squabbles and success and the harsh reality of being an elite Trinidad and Tobago athlete.
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Am so in love with this guy the sky’s his limits with God on by his side
If he really was satisfied. I look forward to an exit interview with him.
We want our athletes to win or medal…. What have we as a nation done to ensure that they have all that is required to perform at their best? Not just for the few months leading up to the event but for the four years or eight years or twelve years? Then we want them to compete with the likes of a Biles or a Bolt just to name two. We are real jokers! The fact that our athletes have even reached Rio 2016 is a testimony to their determination and personal sacrifice. Those who reach the finals are amazing and those who medal are extraordinary! Stop the negative comments….. Instead engage and pressure the government and sporting bodies to do the right thing and put the resources in place.
I’m sorry I don’t even know you and I love you for this comment!! Can I share on my wall please??????
Njisane has the talent but his frailties (which every human being has) were certainly not helped by our corrupt way of doing any and everything.
How do you go from almost medalling at the Olympics to being satisfied with just showing up though.
Too much hype and nothing to back it up with!
His trophy cabinet says otherwise though. And he was fourth in London 2012.
Most of our athletes seem not focussed & unprepared for these games!
What do you suggest ?..Make a contribution that we can share with them that will help them
Maybe something to do with training & fitness and that cutting edge determination to succeed !
Something like the Jamaicans!
But we are not Jamaican Kenneth..Whatever programmes the Jamaicans have for their athletes we don’t. We always knew these are the ingredients for great athletes but is it your belief that it’s provided for these athletes and they are not using it .? They have to be training , else they won’t make qualifications for the games in the first instance , but it’s the games and all countries have diffrent piorities. These countries step up their game when these games roll around..Taking that stage not only requires physical fitness ..you have to be mentally fit as well and that’s an additional cost for an athlete. To match with the world and keep up with technology we have to have the resources ..Natural talent alone does not work in this century..Everything is a science and science requires research..We nothing near that… We are a small nation that has brought medals back, many many big nations with athletes in almost every discipline goes back home without , just like parents should go all out to make sure a child gets a great education a country should do same for their athletes .
True, well said !
I agree that the athletes need more support but the athletes themselves need to get much more serious.
Lol…Will give you 2 hrs in a day in his life …Smh..You all see snip bits of a person’s life and form opinions ..what’s serious ? Cuz more and more athletes are qualifying for these games you Trinis figure it’s a day at the park..What’s serious ? YOU BELIEVE QUALIFYING FOR THESE GAMES WAS A JOKE HUH ? Smh…Shushhhhhhh! !!!!!!
Whose life are you referring too? How do you know that I don’t know some of the athletes? Look who making assumptions.
Read it over Kyle Blades…take your time and read over my comment.
all trinis do is talk trash….they are only wasting Tax Payers money…PP Govt. gave them a brand new Aquatic Centre, a brand new Cycle Velodrome, a brand new Tennis Centre…MAKE USE OF IT….
In his case I think he should concentrate less on his pre race antics and more on the upcoming race. It reeks of overconfidence and the Expected consequence of overconfidence.
You ever competed at a high level? Harley, by his own admission, was a real “mad man” in a waiting room before a race.
That was Hasely CRAWFORD I MEAN
Roy has obviously taken part some sport !!!!! Speaks like a gentleman in the know….if eating an apple a day works for you Roy…dam right eat it …but if candy works for your mom…let her
THE YOUNG MAN HAS DEMONSTRATED SOME POTENTIAL.HOWEVER, HE IS NOT RESPONSIBLE OR QUALIFIED TO LAY CLAIMS TO THE BIG STAGE.TO ALL WHO TOLERATE HIS PERSISTANT CRY,TO ALL WHO ENCOURAGE IT ,YOU SHOULD ASSIST HIM IN THE PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE. THE COUVA FACILITY,THE SPORTS COMPANY’S FUNDING,THE TTOC’S PHOTO OPT INTERVENTIONS JUST WOULD NOT CUT IT.!
Someone needs to explain to me why this athlete had to train in Canada…why wasn’t he allowed to use that big fancy empty indoor track doing nothing in Couva?!…He has always done us proud!! #realrep… Hope he is successful whatever his new path
The Couva venue became available quite late. And then he had no coach here. And I think there were other things missing at the venue that I can’t remember now.
We continue to short-change our young people and deny them the advantages and growth they need to excel ..no wonder we are losing this kind of talent ?
Njisane Phillip post: Todays was a day of mixed emotions, NO COMPLAINTS, just have to say thank you to all who have supported me. Huge thanks to @cyclingcanadaofficial for opening up their doors for me to train the last couple of months, erin hartwell, thank you so much, you are one hell of a coach, four months and i made it to 9.813 thank you. Varun and elisha thank you for sticking by my side the last four years. To my family, friends and supporters thank you. I didnt medal but i LIVED MY DREAM AGAIN, I represented my country again at the olympics. Cycling thank you, you have showed me love and the world but everything must come to an end. Again Much love ???
Only officials benefit from sports in Trinidad. They don’t even lobby for the price of sporting equipment to be affordable but want champions. You can’t buy sports gear for a simple sport as football without $500.00 and up for a full professional kit out. So on the average salary in Trinidad a family with 2 sport minded kids will have real problems to produce a winner. Factor in diet, medical etc and do the math.WE AIN’T READY FOR SERIOUSNESS YET. WE ARE WAGGONISTS CLASS ONE
What’s your point? Alexis Sanchez worked in a salt mine as a youth and Ronaldo’s father swept the road to make a living…Poverty actually fosters character and creates amazing athletes.
Be on that is the exception not the rule.
I’m sure he will bounce back…. his time will come. We have to support them in times like these.
I think he’s retired now
What went wrong? Answer: (1) Insufficient support over the last four years! (2) Ineffective leadership from the TTOC, the Ministry of Sports and the Sports Company! (3) Skulduggery politics & corrupt behavior in the T&T Cycling federation. That is what is wrong!
Paula Trini Ayoung Agreed… Year after year, Olympics after Olympics, World games after World games it is the same result. What hurts is we have the talented, the skilled, the knowledgeable, the experienced and the certified but there is a disconnect primarily because of politics, nepotism, cronyism and greed. Quite a few of these qualified people are ostracized or blacklisted… put out to pasture. When will we learn?
Like you reading my mind girl!
Now, just watch… there will be a barrage of commentaries! Like, you have done your best! Better luck next time! We are proud of you etc, for almost every event in which we did not and will not make the grade. No one makes an effort to understand or query why is it that we always be missing it. Nothing is wrong with the commentaries, really, but it’s time we wake and ask… What’s the hell is going on?
But he was in a good place mentally after the qualifying sprint round. It’s like he just lost focus after his initial match loss.
Rose-Marie Ingrid Lemessy-Forde I saw that interview and felt the same but “in a good place mentally” is subjective. One of the support systems so lacking in T&T sports is Sport Science Support which comprises professionals in the areas of Physiology, Psychology, Biomechanics, professional performance analyses, strength and conditioning, and nutrition! Our athletes are performing against athletes who have these supports systems, contemporary technologies integrated into their development and more. We are at a disadvantage. As Kenneth H. Ransome Jr. said “what the hell is going on?” Just throwing money at the athlete is not enough. T&T Sports organizations and administrations need to wake up. This is serious business that the average T&T citizen will not understand.
Paula I totally agree. I was thinking how much access did he have to a sports psychologist. Physically he looked ready to take on the world.
Oh! My heart went out to him. Is he out of the competition Lasana?
It was heartbreaking to watch Njisane go out with a fizzle. After being a genuine medal hope! He had an interview just after his qualifying sprint and he sounded great..confident and pumped. Maybe losing in the match just shattered this so he lost focus in the repercharge. This is one for Vinood Narwanie to ask….”what went wrong”?
I saw all his races and he looked his usual self in the first sprint. Then in the match sprint something definitely went wrong because he did not seem his usual self and by the time he started the reprecharge I realized that there just no fight in him. It would be interesting to hear what
When he is ready to talk , he will say what happened.
That laugh was for Vinood.
Someday I will try to answer that question for everyone. When he is ready to go over it.
It’s bad luck-he’s amongst the best though, we have that.
Stories like that just discourages young people from taking part because after all these years and all the administrations sadly nothing has ever changed, and I can’t blame Njisane for riding out into the sunset
You can see how it is easy to be emotionally burnt out. Imagine Thema trying to compete again for her country after all that she’s been through for instance.
Bro it’s just stories of woe all the time, Thema was shafted like you could never imagine, and that’s why we will always be third world sad to say and sadly we’ll all die and it won’t change I really had hope for my country to progress in how we so things but I’ve never been made a liar
I always hope enough get moved at the same time and it causes a reaction…
Bro I think people just have given up I was the eternal optimist when it came to sports all the time, sports has brought this country together like no politician could ever do and it still is treated like shit smfh
It gets depressing sometimes. We can’t give up totally though. That will kill Khalifa, Dylan and Levi and the other young stars who are breaking through and will need some help.
Bro I sometimes wonder what we are leaving for future generations like we can’t seem to get anything right in this place politics economics, sports our institutions are collapsing everyday sports is all I treasure in this place bro at least it takes me away momentarily and allows me to dream of what could be if we aspire I still get goose bumps watching Hazely Crawford 40 years after
Reading your comments here and must say sadly this whole country is designed to frustrate those who are willing to give it a go. I really have no answers as to where we go from here, but my only advice to young people is try and see how best you can make it outside, it will be tough but the support systems are definitely there. You may feel homesick, but fight it. I have lost all hope cause we’re only building big shiny buildings and not investing in our talents.
I hope the Ministry of Sports and the Sports Company took note.
I suppose in retrospect Justin, you could consider his mindset and his change in the way he approaches his races mentally… And we can wonder if it hindered him a bit.
Granted that it is easy to overthink sports where the difference between first and second is a fraction of a second.
Still has a chance via the repercharge route but it will be tough
I have no idea how they do it though. He’s wasn’t there last time. He was winning all his matches so I wonder how gruelling it’s going to be. We’ll see. He go dig deep! It’s his swansong!
I did worry when he spoke about his preparation issues since London. It isn’t easy to flip a switch and be awesome. He will have to dig really deep.
But he knows what it takes.
Varun will have to give him a pep talk! 🙂
Boy that’s why I so glad he has his team with him. Some of those sprints look like luck too yes! Skills ..luck and God?
His second race ran already?
Yes. He lost in the the quarterfinal.
Tough luck Njisane! 🙁 You did your best.
The real deal… from the heart interview session. This is what Trinis need to hear so they could understand what athletes undergo.
Im just pissedoff because i know he is capable of better.
He’s a star. .in this country we only like winners , however never really assist our sportsmen emotionally or financially…we just jump on the bandwagon when they are successful.
Veronica – champion!!!
The support required for our local athletes is horrendous. Whether it’s our current government or previous governments, for some reason there seems to be no pertinence in budgeting for sport in an efficient and effective manner. Prime Minister Keith Mitchell, Grenada in his interview with Hema (2 days ago at the Hyatt, POS) endorsed that his government invested heavily in every facet of their athletes as they hold them in high esteem. Trinidad over the years have been in a better financial posture than its counterparts – Grenada and the likes of Jamaica, and as such should have no excuse to commit to the sustainability of sports. We have history and ton loads of gifted athletes emanating from the most impoverished areas that desperately need the support. Where is the commitment to work to advance the wellbeing of our athletes as part of the development of sport in Trinidad. Sport development has never been placed as a priority on the Government’s agenda as they lack vision and only commit when athletes perform at a high level or do they really commit themselves I ask???. I often wonder what is the insurance coverage for our athletes or if therein lies any. Jamaica’s Government has also invested 100% in their athletes and put their money where their mouth is, because they recognise that it takes cash to care, hence, their athletes are fully covered with excellent Group Health Insurance plans year to year……… What a shame…..
Really?? Are you referring to yourself?? What have you contributed? This is exactly what he was talking about in the article. Smh…
What’s your claim to fame Hasely? That’s cold.
Rose-Marie, be sure to let your son read about the emotional strain of being a top flight athlete in a country like ours.
One day, he will have to find a way to deal with it.
Yeah thanks I will. And he’s real ambitious too so God’s willing he will find out what’s it’s like to be a top athlete. But he will definitely have to be taught how to deal with ups and downs and lack of support
We love you still.
This is when you wonder what would have happened with better preparation. I know he put it all on the line.
Yes. I wonder what happened. Not the finale that anyone hoped for, most of all him.
In my book you have won already
Something went wrong there
congrats , good ride in the sprints. thanst fro laying it all on the line. and so true look what happen to Sammy because he spoke . a lot of wrong but you must shut up and you are the one toiling and bringing the glory, while parasites sucking you and filling their pocket. blessings Njisane
? Yeah. I wonder what happened.
Looks like he gave up!
Is this repercharge time now?
Gosh..these young athletes gonna make me cry with pride!! These interviews are sooo inspiring..