“After competing at this Olympics, I’m hungry for more success. I’ll be training towards Paris.”
Spurred on by his ninth-place finish in the Tokyo 2020 Men’s Keirin, here in Japan, Kwesi Browne has fixed his eyes on a bigger prize at the next staging of the Olympic Games, in Paris, France in 2024.
Browne finished third in the ride for positions 7-12 to claim ninth spot overall. The race actually turned out to be a contest to determine 7-11. Browne’s Trinidad and Tobago teammate, Nicholas Paul was disqualified after receiving a second warning in the semis, and the field was cut by one.
At the bell, Browne was at the back but battled hard in the final lap, moving up a couple notches. He might even have finished in the top two had Frenchman Rayan Helal not come down on him in the final sprint.
“He opened the lane and I took it,” Browne told the Express, “and then he came back down. At that late stage it’s hard to tell if it would have made a difference. It definitely stopped a little bit of momentum, but so it goes.”
Hometown hero Yuta Wakimoto won the 7-12 ride to finish seventh overall. Great Britain’s Jack Carlin was eighth, ahead of Browne, Helal and Colombia’s Kevin Quintero.
In the final, Jason Kenny made a successful defence of his title. The Briton took a chance, opening a huge gap on the field with an early burst of speed. Kenny was never to be caught, the all-time great pedalling away with gold. Mohammed Awang claimed silver for Malaysia, forcing Sprint champion Harrie Lavreysen of the Netherlands to settle for bronze. Suriname’s Jair Tjon En Fa finished fourth.
“I would really have liked to make the keirin final,” said Browne, “but ninth place at the Olympics is an amazing achievement, and I’m proud of where I’ve come from.”
Browne was one of T&T’s early Covid-19 positive cases, and spent an extended period in hospital last year.
“It’s just a testimony of God’s greatness in my life. Many people might see me getting Covid as something bad, but I actually think it was something very positive in my life. For 36 days I had the opportunity of spending a lot of time with God, getting closer to God, which was definitely a blessing in my life.
“When I first went in the hospital,” Browne explained, “I was nervous because I wasn’t sure how long I was going to stay, and I knew the Olympic Games was coming up. But God assured me I will be at the Olympics, and he fulfilled his promise. I’m forever grateful for that.”
In an unprecedented move, Tokyo 2020 was postponed and staged one year later, allowing Browne a full recovery from Covid-19.
In yesterday’s semifinal round, Browne finished fifth in heat one. The Arima Wheelers cyclist tried to go with Kenny when the reigning champion made a move, but could not latch on to the Briton’s wheel, and eventually finished fifth.
“That’s part of the keirin. Sometimes it works for you and sometimes it doesn’t. On this occasion it didn’t work for me. The heat was too jumbled for me to make any moves.”
In heat two, Paul just missed out on a top-three spot, edged into fourth by Lavreysen. The Gasparillo rider, however, was subsequently disqualified.
Paul was brilliant in his keirin quarterfinal. The 22-year-old Central Spokes cyclist made a big move in the penultimate lap, surging from fifth to first and opening a gap on the field, before easing to the line. Browne finished third in another quarterfinal heat to book his spot in the semis.
For the first time since 1992, T&T failed to get on the Olympic Games medal table. Paul’s sixth-place finish in the Sprint was the best Team TTO performance at Tokyo 2020. There were five other top-10 individual finishes: Jereem “The Dream” Richards, 5th Men’s 200m; Michelle-Lee Ahye, 9th Women’s 100m; Deon Lendore, 9th Men’s 400m; Browne, 9th Men’s Keirin; and Tyra Gittens, 10th Women’s Long Jump.
Ahead of the Olympics, the unheralded Browne would not have been considered a likely candidate for a top-five T&T performance.
“I’ve been working towards this moment for nine years. A couple weeks ago my sister (Aziza) said to me, you always had to fight harder and work harder than the rest. It’s something I’ve been doing nine years now, grinding, moving mountains. I’ve always had to jump over hurdles. It’s a testimony to God first of all, hard work, dedication and definitely the support of my family.
“I had one of my best keirin performances in a tournament, and on the biggest stage possible. I’m very proud of myself,” Browne ended, “believing in myself and going out there and riding in the manner I did.”