It was a dramatic end to the UCI World Championships for T&T in Pruszkow, Poland yesterday as young Nicholas Paul pushed some of the best cyclists in the world to finish a credible seventh in the Men's Sprint, but Njisane Phillip's campaign came to an abrupt stop.
Paul made it to the quarter-finals, but fell short against Dutch rider Jeffrey Hoogland in the second heat. In the best of three races, he lost the first with a time difference of +0.243 seconds and then went down in the second race with a time difference of +1.180 seconds. But it hardly diminished what was an incredible performance from the 20-year-old, who had to the carry the flag by himself from the 1/16 finals and beyond.
That's because fellow T&T rider Phillip, suffered a broken wheel, riding against New Zealand's Ethan Mitchell in the 1/16 finals. As Phillip seemed to initiate an overtake, his front wheel snapped, sending him plummeting to the track.
"I was trying to make the attack coming out of turn three and into turn four and it just happened so fast that I just went down," he told Guardian Media Sports after the fall.
It was a painful exit for Phillip, who along with Paul, started off the individual sprint event in good shape. He clocked a speedy time of 9.828 seconds in the qualifying round, making it through with the 13th fastest time.
Paul, on the other hand, qualified in eighth position, blazing the track in the qualification process with a time of 9.751 seconds. There were some sizzling speeds in the qualifiers.
Cycling analyst Gary Acosta wrote on Twitter, "To put it into perspective, the World Championships fastest qualifier from a decade ago at the same track (9.930) would have qualified 24th here this year! Sprint cycling has evolved!"
However, as Paul watched his countryman crash out of the event, he stayed focus to keep T&T in the event. Facing Japan's Yuta Wakimoto in the 1/16 finals, Paul beat the Asian in the race to advance to the quarter-finals by a time difference of +0.098 seconds.
He then narrowly got past Germany's Stefan Botticher in the 1/8 finals in a photo finish, with a time difference of +0.004 seconds.
Though his pursuit didn't go any further than the quarters, he was satisfied with his World Championships.
He said, "It feels great and this proves that hard work pays off. It was a very challenging event as the best countries are here and it's an Olympic qualifier so everyone is in top shape. We had to bring our 'A' game and I felt like we did our best."
Paul said he felt no pressure after Phillip crashed out of the event.
"These things happen in racing but it was a great experience to finish seventh in the world and for us to end 11th in the Team Sprint. I just hope that I keep moving forward from this success," Paul told Guardian Media Sports.