‘Teniel The First’ pedals into action
Teniel Campbell will score another first for Trinidad and Tobago women when she rides in the Tokyo 2020 Road Race from midnight tonight (T&T time).
Sprinter Kelly-Ann Baptiste became Team TTO’s first-ever female Olympic Games opening ceremony flag-bearer, yesterday. Filled with empty chairs owing to a ban on spectators because of Covid-19 concerns, the Olympic Stadium was an odd site as the Games of the XXXII Olympiad officially started here in Tokyo, Japan.
The opening ceremony “crowd” was made up mostly of media personnel. The historical significance of the Baptiste moment, however, was in no way diminished, the five-time Olympian carrying the “Red, White and Black” with pride during the Parade of Nations.
“It’s an honour to walk alongside our first female flag bearer, Kelly-Ann Baptiste,” chef de mission Lovie Santana said in an official Team TTO statement. “She is definitely deserving given her incredible career as an athlete and Olympian.”
T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis was high in praise for the track star. “She has served Trinidad and Tobago with dedication, determination, class and dignity.”
While Baptiste will compete in her fifth, and likely last Olympic Games here in Tokyo, Campbell is making her debut. She is Team TTO’s first-ever female Olympic cyclist. Call her Teniel The First!
The odds are stacked heavily against Campbell in the Women’s Road Race. The 23-year-old is no stranger to adversity, however, and is certain to give her all.
Felice Aisha Chow was back in action late yesterday at Sea Forest Waterway in the Women’s Single Sculls repêchage round. Chow was on show even before the opening ceremony, the Team TTO rower finishing fourth in the second first round heat. She completed the 2,000-metre course in eight minutes, 02.02 seconds. The top three advanced automatically to the quarter-final round.
After 500 metres, Chow was third. The two-time Olympian, however, had slipped to fourth by the halfway mark. She stayed there, missing out on direct passage to the quarters. Ireland’s two-time world champion Sanita Puspure was dominant, winning in 7:46.08, ahead of Mexico’s Kenia Lechuga (7:54.21) and Greek Anneta Kyridou (7:54.28).
“It was good,” a satisfied Chow told the Express, after the race. “I rowed my race and I wanted to see where it would end up. I executed a solid, solid race. It wasn’t enough to get me straight through to the quarter-finals, but it was a really good start to my second Olympics. I have something to build on.
“There was a headwind,” she explained, “so the times today were a little slow. Given the conditions, my time wasn’t bad. If it’s choppy, times are slower. The wind has a significant effect on speed, so it’s really about how you do relative to everyone else, and not the times.”
As an Olympic débutante in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, five years ago, Chow had full family backing, including her husband Dan Kaplan, father Alwin Chow, and mother Judy Chow. The Tokyo 2020 spectator ban, however, has dried up her pool of partisan support.
“My family is trying to cheer for me,” said Chow. “We have a family WhatsApp, and everybody is wearing the supporter T-shirts, and they’re sending me pictures, sharing wherever they are. And even though I try not to get too engaged because it’s kind of distracting, it’s really good to know they’re cheering for me. I know they’re there in spirit. “My family supporting me is very, very important to me. Even their little dogs are wearing T-shirts to support,” an amused Chow disclosed, “so everybody is cheering.”
There is one voice in particular the 44-year-old is missing here in Tokyo. “Not even my number one fan, my husband was able to come. He was really, really sad. He comes to all my races, and this was one of the first ones he couldn’t make,” Chow lamented.
Andrew Lewis recently became a father. Thoughts of his daughter, Oaklee are sure to inspire Lewis when he sets sail at Enoshima Yacht Harbour, at 1.35 tomorrow morning (T&T time), in the opening Men’s Laser Class race.
UPDATE: Chow won her repechage race in 8:15.94 to book a lane in the quarterfinals.