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Challenging, yes; impossible, no! Hartwell urges Njisane and Bramble to fight to the end

“It’s a big gap, but not an insurmountable one… There are countless, beautiful comeback stories throughout the history of the sport! It’s what inspires people to pursue sport!

“The essence of sport is to rise to the occasion, put one’s best foot forward, and face the doubts and demons that come with the territory…”

Trinidad and Tobago national cycling director Erin Hartwell responds to the withdrawal of cyclists Njisane Phillip and Keron Bramble from the Men’s Team Sprint Tokyo Olympic Games chase:

Trinidad and Tobago cycling Nicholas Paul, Njisane Phillip and Keron Bramble
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago cyclists Keron Bramble, Njisane Phillip and Nicholas Paul pedal to win the gold medal in the men’s team sprint final at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru on 1 August 2019.
(Copyright AP Photo/Fernando Llano/Wired868)

I’d like to make one clarification regarding Olympic qualification for the team sprint. The strategic approach defined by the national team two years ago has been that the squad would complete the Olympic qualification process as long as the team sprint program had a viable shot to qualify for the Games. There has never been a discussion of stopping prior to the World Championships as long as qualification is still an option.

A team must complete the process in order to meet the objectives. Pulling the plug with one event to go eliminates that possibility.

We’ve been running the qualification numbers and scenarios throughout the season and after the release of each week’s points update by the International Cycling Union. Following the last world cup in Australia, we now sit 562.5 points down from the final Olympic qualification spot with one event to go. It’s a big gap, but not an insurmountable one—especially when the World Championships carry more than twice the points of any other competition.

As an example, fifth place at Worlds alone nets 1575 points! It’s the MOST important competition of the two-year qualification process!

The reality is that the team would have needed to keep their foot on the gas and target a podium at the final World Cup in Canada (a realistic target) and then perform well at Worlds (top 4-6; another realistic target) and finish ahead of some of the squads we’ve been chasing for that final qualification spot.

Photo: National cycling director Erin Hartwell (right) urges on his cyclists.

Challenging, yes; impossible, no. Anything can happen in racing… there are countless, beautiful comeback stories throughout the history of the sport! It’s what inspires people to pursue sport!

The essence of sport is to rise to the occasion, put one’s best foot forward, and face the doubts and demons that come with the territory. High performance is never easy. It’s fraught with great risk and no guarantee of reward.

This team has shaken the foundations of the international cycling community. There is no other small national making such progress in a team event in track cycling. TTO is an example of what’s possible when everyone makes the commitment. It’s been an unprecedented level of accomplishment for a small country. I am deeply proud of that.

Nevertheless, we are now at risk of walking away with one event to go without realising what’s possible for team TTO. When I look back at my own sporting career, I sleep comfortably at night knowing I never gave up on an opportunity to fight on and finish the job.

In the end, I would hate for these amazing, hard-working, and talented young men to look back and wonder, ‘what if’ on their own careers.

Photo: (From left to right) Trinidad and Tobago cyclists Keron Bramble, Njisane Phillip and Nicholas Paul show off their medals from the 2019 Pan American Games.
(Copyright TTOC)

Editor’s Note: Click HERE to read a special Wired868 report as Lasana Liburd talks to national cyclists Njisane Phillip and Keron Bramble, coach Erin Hartwell and official Rowena Williams about the issues affecting Trinidad and Tobago cycling.

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