The country's chances of a medal in cycling at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil were boosted yesterday by the news that Njisane Phillip will get his wish to have the personnel of his choice with him.
It is expected that the T&T Olympic Committee will today name Varun Maharajh, to fill the position of soigneur on the team, following the withdrawal of David Francis as manager. Francis took the high ground and withdrew in the best interest of the cyclist on Saturday.
Phillip's request to have Maharajh as a member of his two-man team, which also includes Elijah Greene as the mechanic, came to fruition on Saturday after he resisted the Cycling Federation's decision to pick Francis as manager.
Phillip was adamant that he would perform better with Maharajh on his team, describing the endurance rider as his training partner, helper and right hand man and someone who was aware of his needs as well as what needs to be done to prepare him for race day. He also hinted at not riding for the twin-island republic after the Olympics if Maharajh was not on his team.
On Saturday however the TTCF sent out a release stating that Francis had voluntarily decided to withdraw as manager, due to the negative publicity. The decision, according to cycling's president Robert Farrier was to provide full support for the cyclist by giving him all the necessary tools for him to perform at his best. "We want to ensure that he is comfortable and could give of his best for the country. We hope he can bring home a medal," Farrier said yesterday.
Yesterday Phillip's stepfather Phillip Whiteman said Njisane was pleased with Francis, saying his stepson has publicly said to Francis that his choice of Maharajh had nothing to do with him as a person. Whiteman also admitted that he too sent Francis a message thanking him for his decision, adding that the assistant racing secretary also acknowledged it.
The decision means that Njisane's coach Erin Hartwell can now turn his rider's attention back to the Olympics, as his preparation has been intensified and the prospect of a medal at the Olympic increased. According to Whiteman "Hartwell has described the media frenzy as unnecessary."
According to Whiteman, the Canadian coach has literally had to changed his rider's focus back to the Olympics. "What the TTCF did was create unnecessary pressure for Njisane at the games, as he will now have to perform as they have given him what he wants. I think all that media frenzy could have been avoided if the cycling federation had only honoured its commitment from the start," Whiteman said.
He addressed claims of Njisane's need for a manager, saying his stepson has gone through the entire qualification process without one.
Whiteman took a swipe at the management of the TTCF, saying that T&T should have more cyclists in Rio now after Njisane did what he did to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London England. "They should have been focused on developing young riders and preparing the seniors for Olympics but they did not. Now instead of throwing their support behind the lone T&T rider at the games, they are creating problems," Whiteman added.