Friday, January 19, 2018

Phillip, Alexander in ‘Nationals’ spotlight

Olympic star or talented contender?

That question will be answered tonight after Day Five of the Trinidad and Tobago Cycling Federation (TTCF) National Track Championships pedals off at Arima Velodrome from 7 p.m., with the Elite and Junior match sprint events on the schedule.

World Cup silver medallist, Olympic fourth-place finisher and Pan American record holder Njisane Phillip will be favourite to retain his sprint title. Despite health woes in January that threatened to derail his 2014, ruling him out of the World Championships in February in Colombia, Philip has recovered at home before making a return to the track in T&T last month.

A few events later, he has admitted that he is not quite up to speed yet but that will not stop the rider—who will celebrate his 23rd birthday towards the end of this month—from gearing up to qualify for the Glasgow, Scotland Commonwealth Games in July with tonight’s ride. 

Alexander has already secured his place with a new Arima Velodrome record in the kilometre time trial but he also has his eye on upsetting Phillip for the sprint title. Although T&T currently have a good crop of young sprinters, the 20-year-old is the strongest contender.

Phillip—who got the better of Alexander in the Easter Grand Prix sprint final three weekends ago—yesterday told the Express he is ready for tonight’s competition.

“I’m looking forward to retaining my title,” he said. “Preparations have been doing great so far. I have not been the best probably but I have to get it done.”

The US-based cyclist said he is still “lacking speed” as he works his way back to his physical peak. He expects his tactical experience to serve him in good stead tonight and give him a boost before he returns to the US on Wednesday to resume training.

Alexander, meanwhile, is very happy with his “kilo” performance, which puts him where he wants to be in his preparations for Commonwealth Games. 

“It was what we were looking for, what we were training for and it’s just the whole mental preparation that led to this end result and, I think it was a good time and a good ride.”

Although Alexander wants to focus on the match sprint, he explained that the kilo helps in his holistic training for the sprints and keirin.

He was disappointed with the Easter Grand Prix final. He has, however, shrugged it off, and has another chance to show his progress.

“The main thing for me is this weekend. Yesterday (Wednesday) was important for the Commonwealth Games, but still the match sprint and keirin are very important to me, and I would like to focus on doing my best and see what the result will be. I believe in myself, I believe I can do it, I have faith in God and my management team around me, and hope that this event leads to greater things.”