Saturday, December 16, 2017

Top riders expected for Njisane Phillip Festival


BIG CHEQUE: Trinidad and Tobago's top sprint cyclist Njisane Phillip, right, is presented with a cheque for $1 million by Sport Company of T&T (SPORTT) sport tourism specialist Kairon Serette yesterday during the launch of the Njisane Phillip Three-Day Cycling Festival at Hasely Crawford Stadium's VIP Lounge. —Photo: ishmael salandy

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"A lot of talent".

That's how Trinidad and Tobago track cycling star Njisane Phillip has described the up and coming crop of young local cyclists, as he prepares to launch a new event geared at providing them with greater exposure to high-level international competition.

At the launch of the Njisane Phillip Three-Day Cycling Festival yesterday at the VIP Lounge of Hasely Crawford Stadium, Phillip told the Express he was impressed with how T&T's junior cyclists have been performing.

"We have a lot of talent," Phillip declared. "(We've got) a lot of upcoming guys like (Arima Wheelers cyclist) Kwesi Browne and (Parksides') Justin Roberts are strong, talented guys, and I definitely think we have a good future for cycling in Trinidad."

Phillip is hoping his new initiative, set for April 19-21 at Palo Seco, San Fernando's Skinner Park and Arima Velodrome, will a have three-fold benefit: one, to give young riders exposure to world class cycling; two, to help raise the level of cycling locally with a long-term event; and three, to promote T&T in terms of sport tourism.

There have also been discussions about hosting a coaching symposium so that local coaches can also take advantage of the opportunity.

Among the riders expected to come to T&T for the Festival are Malaysia's Josiah Ng, New Zealand's Sam Webster and Denis Dmitriev of Russia, while there are also unconfirmed US riders expressing interest, and Phillip expects to have international women riders as well.

The Festival, for which the estimated cost is in the region of $3.5 million, is being supported by the Ministry of Sport and the Sport Company of T&T (SPORTT), who yesterday handed over a cheque worth $1 million to Phillip, who finished fourth in the match sprint event at the 2012 London Olympics.

The Festival is expected to include action in the following categories: international men, international women, BMX (ages 9-13), Tinymites, Junior and Masters. So far, the TDC (the Tourism Development Company), Oasis and Rigtech Sonics are already on board, while negotiations are ongoing with other potential corporate sponsors.

T&T Cycling Federation (TTCF) president Rowena Williams has given the Federation's blessing to the event.

"We know Njisane's whole initiative is going to be one that is going to develop cycling (locally). We're looking forward to the young ones taking this as a learning curve for them," Williams said. "We support him, and we want this event to be a very successful one as we go forward."

Phillip's stepdad, Phillip Whiteman, also wants the event to be an annual one.

"The idea is not only to bring the athletes for three days, but to try and promote Trinidad as a sport tourism destination. The idea is to keep the athletes here for approximately ten days, for them to not just race, but see different areas of Trinidad and Tobago (as well)."

Njisane has a long term vision for the event, and hopes to bring cycling to Tobago as well, which he feels sometimes gets "left out" of such events.

"I'd like to see it grow into something big in about ten years, something completely different, where other athletes are wanting to come to our country and take part in this event, as well as just promoting our country," he said.

Philli also wants local cyclists to get more live experience of international competition.

"For the guys that don't get to see them at the World Cups or the Pan Am Games or whatever it is, I think it's a lot of motivation just to see [the top riders] and see the level they're at. You see something on YouTube and it looks a certain way, but to see it in real life, it's just like bringing Usain Bolt (to run here).

"Seeing Usain Bolt live is definitely different than seeing (him) on TV. I just want to bring them here and just encourage the youths."