Unity in cycling is crucial to raising the level of the sport.
So says newly-returned Trinidad and Tobago Cycling Federation (TTCF) president Rowena Williams, who is shying away from a combative approach to leadership.
Reflecting on her previous two-year tenure as TTCF head, Williams, local cycling's first female president acknowledged that there have been criticisms of the Federation, and in-fighting within the cycling fraternity, which she described as unavoidable.
But according to Williams, her focus is on developing the sport, its athletes and officials, and improving the Federation's financial standing.
"We cannot not get the criticisms, that is life and (we must) deal with it accordingly," Williams told the Express yesterday. "What we don't want is there to be a fight. I don't intend to fight or back bite or feel that I have to fight back with them; that is not my style and it will not be.
"I am willing to work with any party that is willing to come and share ideas for the betterment of cycling. We all need to work together. I cannot force anybody."
Commenting on track cycling talent Christopher Sellier's decision to retire from the sport, Williams called it "sad".
"The Federation doesn't have a stance on it. We weren't advised on this on any formal date by Mr Sellier. The Federation found out about it in the media. A cyclist choosing to retire is all up to them. For me, it is sad that Christopher would take such a stance on a situation, rather than coming and having a discussion (with the Federation about) the situation or the problem."
Williams continued: "We will still have discussions if Chris wants and we will see what happens. Chris has the talent and is an asset to cycling. We don't want to throw that talent away. I don't think that is the right move, but we can't (make that decision for him)."
During her term, Williams said she has seen big improvements in T&T's cyclists, while the young crop of teenagers is certainly promising. She is impressed with the Junior (15-17 age group) and Juvenile (13-15) riders, but Williams won't take all the credit for their progress.
"It's not just (the TTCF responsible for lifting cycling). It's contributions (from) all; the cyclists, the coaches. It's not just what we did, but it's an overall [effort] by the coaches, and the clubs. The racing we put on also helped out. So it's not just one focus. It's an overall effort by everyone."
Looking ahead, Williams said the biggest challenge for her new executive–which includes Richard Jiminez, Desmond Roberts and Gregory D'Andrade as vice-presidents, Jackie Corbin as general secretary and Betty Daniel as racing secretary— is to put their development programmes into action.
"…We want to do so much programmes, I think we need to identify the critical ones we need to. We're going to be focusing on how we're getting ready for the next four years heading into the next Olympics, putting structures in place to make sure our guys get the proper line to head into the new Olympic period for 2016," she explained.
In Williams' first term, she stated, she inherited difficult "financial issues", and now that the Federation has completed audits for the last two fiscal years, Williams is expected a "smoother" run for her team.
The benefits, she said, can be seen in the improved level of support from sponsors the Federation saw in 2012, and she is hoping the trend will continue going forward.
"We have to make sure our financial accountability is in order. It is going to strengthen our ability to (attract) funding outside and not be dependent on SPORTT (the Sport Company of T&T) and the Ministry (of Sport only). We are able to market ourselves even more now that our audit is completed," Williams pointed out.
"We can prove to our sponsors that we have accountability for monies coming in and spending. You want to be able to go to the sponsors and show that we are responsible."
Rowena Williams (president), Richard Jiminez (vice president), Desmond Roberts (vice president), Gregory D'Andrade (vice president), Jackie Corbin (general secretary), Janelle Celestine (treasurer), Betty Daniel (racing secretary), Claire Orr (assistant general secretary), Frank Gittens (assistant racing secretary) and Melissa Constance (public relations officer).