(drop) Paul’s relegation unfair and brutal, says TTOC boss
Nicholas Paul’s Olympic dreams slipped from his grasp at the Izu Velodrome, here in Japan, yesterday. Into the Men’s sprint semis after beating Russia’s Denis Dmitriev in two straight rides, the Trinidad and Tobago cyclist was pushed out of the last four.
“Relegation for not holding their line during the final sprint (Race 2),” was the official explanation.
With the result overturned, and Dmitriev handed race two, a third and deciding ride was required. Dmitriev was first to the line this time, the Russian securing the semi-final spot on offer. In the race to determine positions five to eight, Paul finished second to Germany’s Maximillian Levy to secure sixth spot overall.
Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis was convinced Paul got a raw deal in his quarter-final showdown with Dmitriev.
“Trinidad and Tobago and Nicholas Paul had a medal opportunity taken away,” Lewis told the Express, “because of the harsh reality that it was Russia (Russia Olympic Committee). It was unfair...and brutal. Even in the third ride it appeared as if Dmitriev came down on Nicholas almost causing him to fall.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow,” Lewis continued, “but I am incredibly proud of Nicholas. As disappointed as he was he told me he isn’t discouraged but motivated to rise up and bounce back, and that this will only inspire him to learn from the experience and continue to improve. Trinidad and Tobago and Nicholas Paul got a raw deal but fear not...Nicholas Paul will bounce back.”
Lewis said that while, in his view, Paul was treated unfairly, he appreciated the attitude of David Lappartien, president of UCI, the world governing body for cycling. Lappartien gave a listening ear to Team TTO chef de mission Lovie Santana and cycling manager Desmond Roberts.
“But obviously,” Lewis conceded, “it was the decision of the relevant UCI technical officials that had to stand. I again acknowledge the efforts of UCI President David Lappartient to make cycling a more inclusive and diverse sport. Both Nicholas and Kwesi Browne are currently based at the UCI Cycling Centre in Switzerland.
“This has been a very difficult Olympics for Team TTO,” Lewis continued. “But I remain unwavering in my belief and confidence that the future is bright for Team TTO. Nicholas’ attitude to this setback augurs well for his future and Team TTO.”
Before his relegation in the quarter-final round, Paul looked on course for a strong Tokyo 2020 podium challenge. On Wednesday, the 22-year-old defeated Australia’s Matthew Richardson and Malaysia’s Mohammed Awang. He continued his fine run yesterday with victory over Japan’s Yuka Wakimoto.
Paul followed up with defeat of Dmitriev in two straight rides...or so it seemed. With the opportunity for a sprint medal snatched away, Paul switches his focus to the keirin. Both Paul and Kwesi Browne will be in action early tomorrow morning (T&T time) in the opening round.
Paul’s unfortunate elimination in the sprint followed on the heels of Keshorn Walcott’s shock exit in the Men’s javelin. Walcott fell well short of the 83.50 metres automatic qualifying distance, the 2012 Olympic champion only managing 79.33.
“The athletes appear to understand that there are good days and bad,” Santana told the Express. “This is the Olympics. Each individual athlete had their own goals and objectives which included contributing to Team TTO giving their all.
“I came into this Games,” the chef de mission continued, “focused on providing the best support within our means to all 33 athletes to help them get to the starting line. All I anticipate is they do their very best regardless of the challenges and obstacles.”
Among the challenges faced by Team TTO here in Japan were positive Covid-19 tests for hurdler Sparkle McKnight, long jumper Andwuelle Wright and jumps coach Wendell Williams. The two athletes were barred from competing, and all three were checked in to an isolation facility.
Yesterday, Santana said McKnight, Wright and Williams are all doing well.
“No symptoms or illness. Wendell has been released from the isolation facility by the Japan Government. The athletes will be released as per the Japan Government protocols and guidelines over the next couple days.”
There was more good news from Santana.
“No new Covid-19 positives. Our objective is that there will be no new ones.”