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Teniel breaks the status quo, forgoes Olympic track qualification bid

Published: 
Sunday, August 12, 2018
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“So easy?” – Teniel Campbell captures the Women’s race at the 2017 Beacon Cycling On the Avenue event. Photo credit: PSL Cycling Club

GARY ACOSTA

Cycling Analysis

Certifications in nothing related to sports with an opinion on everything

Teniel breaks the status quo; forgoes Olympic track qualification bid

While the 1972 Munich Games were marred by the attacks and kidnapping of the Isreali Olympic Team by Palestinian terrorists within the Olympic village, the XX Olympiad also marked the last time that T&T participated in road cycling at the quadrennial competition. The quartet of Clive Saney, Anthony Sellier, Pat Gillineau and Vernon Stauble competed in the Road Race, however since then T&T’s road participation has been all but deserted.

Leslie Rawlins, Gene Samuel, Maxwell Cheeseman and Njisane Phillip have all proudly flown the red, white and black around the banked velodrome since ’72 but the dust has been left to gather an appreciable heap on the road. This has not been due to a lack of attempts, since names such as Richard Dickie and Emile Abraham immediately come to mind as those who would have creditably tried to break this drought in the past, albeit unsuccessful for their respective reasons.

The qualification for track cycling at Tokyo2020, the 12th edition of the Olympic Games since our last participation in road cycling, starts in just under a month for the Americas and the process spans a year and a half. The recent success of our track cycling program in Colombia has expectedly enticed our hopes for a yet another qualification. It is this hope that has fostered T&T’s appetite for this form of the sport.

However, Teniel Campbell has decided to defy this natural attraction and penchant for track cycling even after snatching three bronze medals on the velodrome at the recently concluded Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games. Instead, the 2018 CAC Games Road gold medallist has squarely lined up the Road Race at Tokyo2020 in her cross-hairs.

Dubbed the “Caribbean Cycling Queen”, you can always find Teniel with her smile on her face. If she does not have one then the odds are that she was unhappy with her performance in a race regardless of the podium outcome. Photo credit: UCI/WCC

To bolster this decision, six (6) months into her high performance stint at the World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland and the PSL cyclist has been gifted with the opportunity to ride with Cogeas-Mettler Professional Cycling Team. Teniel will compete for the Russian based outfit for the remainder of the world calendar season until December 31st. Though this is a non-paid position in its initial phase, she will still gain UCI World Calendar points and will make her the first ever female T&T cyclist to ride with a pro cycling team. This achievement in itself is a reward for her top 10 placings in two stages of the Women’s Tour of Thailand and the SPAR Flanders Diamond Tour in Belgium earlier this year.

The Women’s Road Olympic qualification differs to that of the track and takes place over one year from October 2018. The the top 22 countries in the UCI World Nation Ranking at the end of the period will receive their respective quotas.

That criterion presents itself as a steep incline on the road to Tokyo with Campbell being the only T&T representative competing in World Calendar events. The disadvantageous nature of the criterion stems from the fact that Nations will have up to eight cyclists receiving points towards their Nation ranking.

In local parlance, this will be similar to climbing through Parlatuvier on ‘big plate’.

There are caveats however in the Olympic criteria that present opportunities for a single cyclist’s qualification. Based on Plain Sports, Bad Manners’ analysis, these are the two most likely pathways to secure the long awaited nod:

If Teniel finishes the 2019 UCI World Individual Rankings in the top 100, she will automatically qualify Trinidad & Tobago a spot on the Road regardless of T&T’s UCI World Nation Ranking.

Or, if Teniel finishes higher than any other non-qualified nation through the UCI World Rankings at the 2019 Elite Pan American Road Cycling Championships (location to be announced), she will automatically qualify Trinidad & Tobago a spot on the Road.

Speaking recently in an interview with the World Cycling Centre, the 3x Caribbean Women’s Road Champion was buoyant and excited to start her new adventure with the Russian pro team. The decision to go against the grain was a well thought through process with her coaches both in Switzerland and back home in T&T as Campbell has an eagerness to continuously make history.

While she admitted her love for the track and her inkling to return to same for Paris2024, her eyes are set on what needs to be done.

I don’t want to choose between the two. It is possible to do both – a lot of pro women do. Why not road in Tokyo and track in Paris in 2024? Anything is possible.

If she is successful in her bid, not only would she break an almost half of a century dry spell for road cycling but will also be the first ever female T&T cyclist to compete at the prestigious competition.

Trail blazers often view the roads to success differently. They not only see the challenging task ahead but are able to carve a way through the doubters’ road blocks. Trinidad and Tobago stands 100% behind Teniel Campbell on her quest to make history and clearing the path that others will follow.

(Plain Sports, Bad Manners – @garyleeacosta)

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