T&T is no stranger to success in cycling on the global stage.
Since the 1960s we have been pedalling our way to medal podiums around the world.
With T&T still basking in the glory of its new-found independence, Roger Gibbon was flying the red, white and black high.
“Roger Gibbon had the following podium finishes at major championships: 1st in the 1963 Pan American games sprint, 1stin the 1967 Pan American Games sprint, 1st in the 1967 Pan American Games 1000 metres track time trail, 2nd in the 1963 Pan American Games 1000 metres track time trial,” according to the official Olympics website.
Gibbon also represented T&T in both the 1964 Olympic games in Tokyo and the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City.
His best finish in those two games was his 5th place finish in the 1,000 metres time trial in 1968.
But Gibbon was not alone in heating up the tracks for T&T.
In that same 1968 Olympic Games that Gibbon recorded his best showing, T&T was also represented in cycling by Leslie King.
“Leslie King was a pure track sprinter who competed at two Olympic Games, those of 1968 and 1972. He also competed twice at the Commonwealth Games, in 1966 and in 1970, winning two medals in 1970, with a silver in the kilometre time trial and a bronze in the match sprint,” according to the official Olympics website.
“In 1966, King competed in the same events at the Commonwealth Games, placing ninth in both and also competed in the scratch race, but failed to place,” it stated.
T&T’s cycling legacy, however, did not end there.
Enter Gene Samuel.
Samuel participated in his first of four consecutive Olympic Games in 1984 in Los Angeles.
His best position was his 4th place finish in the 1000 metres time trial in 1984.
He missed the bronze medal by 4/100ths of a second.
After that, Samuel was rated in the top eight in the world for about ten years in succession.
Samuel was on the medal podium some 483 times while wearing T&T colours both locally and overseas, capturing 65 national Senior Championships titles.
Njisane Phillips also secured his name among this country’s long list of cyclists.
Phillips managed to place fourth in the 2012 Olympic Games for sprint.
He too represented the country in consecutive Olympic Games.
Other cyclists who would have represented T&T include Ian Atherly and Maxwell Cheeseman to name but a few.
Given our rich legacy, why then have we not invested more into the latest crop of exceptional cycling talent?
Even before Nicholas Paul captured gold, silver, and bronze in the Commonwealth Games he cemented his place among the cycling greats.
Not just in T&T.
Paul is a world record holder.
“The fastest cycle over 200 metres unpaced with a flying start by a male is 9.100 seconds, achieved by Nicholas Paul (T&T) at the Pan-American Track Cycling Championships in Cochabamba, Bolivia, on 6 September 2019,” the Guinness World Record states.
“Francois Pervis’ men’s flying 200-m time trial record of 9.347 seconds had stood since 2013, before it was broken twice in quick succession at altitude in Cochabamba: first by Suriname’s Jair Tjon En Fa (9.249 seconds), before he himself was surpassed by Nicholas Paul,” it stated.
Paul participated in the Olympic Games in Tokyo where he placed 6th in the Men’s sprint.
Paul is a sure bet.
So, therefore, it was disheartening to hear that corporations aren’t riding as hard for him as he has been riding for us.
My go-to person when it comes to anything cycling related is Gary Acosta.
And according to Acosta:
“I hope all these companies that are jumping on the Nicholas Paul congratulations wagon put their money where their post is!”
Now before I continue I just want to put on record that the Ministry of Sport and Community Development has made some investment into Paul.
In 2018 the National Rewards and Incentives Framework was introduced to reward athletes who achieved medals at the highest levels of international competition in various respective sporting disciplines.
Athletes have benefited from this policy for medalling at the Olympics/Paralympics Games, World Cup, World Championships Events, Commonwealth Games, the Central American and Caribbean Games, and Special Olympic World Games.
Paul was awarded $475,000 for his world record performance, the 2019 Panama Games and the 2022 World Track Cycling Championships.
But funding from the State is not enough.
Football star Lionel Messi, the best in the world dependent who you talk to, has earned $1.15 billion.
“The Argentine forward was the highest-paid athlete in the world over the past 12 months despite taking a significant pay cut when he moved to Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona in August,” Forbes stated.
A significant portion of that money comes from endorsements.
“He added a $20 million deal with fan engagement app Socios in March to go with long-term deals with Adidas, Budweiser, PepsiCo and Hard Rock International,” it stated.
But even beyond ensuring that our talented athletes can have a viable career, we need to ensure that they are given a fighting chance when they represent us.
Kwesi Browne rode in the men’s keirin final during the Commonwealth Games in which Paul eventually won the gold medal.
Browne placed a commendable 6th.
The obstacles he overcame to get that position however need to be mentioned.
Browne’s bike frame broke two months ago while on his way to represent T&T in Philadelphia.
A bike frame costs at least $50,000.
“He’s been borrowing someone else’s bike frame which isn’t suitable for pros to ride. It’s currently too small for him. Yet he placed 6th,” a tweet from ToniHouston26 stated.
“Idk what else these young men have to do to get corporate T&T behind them,” she stated.
Browne also represented T&T in the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020 placing 9th in the Men’s Keirin.
Apart from Paul and Browne T&T has been well represented by Teneil Campbell who has also been flying the flag high for us as part of the International Cycling Union’s Women’s World Team.
Corporate T&T, it is time to ride hard for our cyclists.