Trinidad cyclist Phillip living the dream
By Julian Guyer | AFP – 10 hours ago
For Trinidad's Njisane Phillip, just being at the Olympic Games is an achievement in itself.
Yet after another impressive display at the London Velodrome on Sunday, the 21-year-old is within sight of one of the more unlikely track cycling medals of this or any other Olympics.
Phillip, the lone rider at this Games from a Caribbean island better known for its cricketers than its cyclists, won through to the semi-finals of the men's sprint with a 2-0 victory over Denis Dmitriev of Russia.
He now finds himself up against Britain's Jason Kenny, silver medallist in this event in Beijing four years ago and now the favourite for gold.
But that daunting prospect made no dent whatsoever in Phillip's joy at riding through to the last four, having just edged out Dmitriev in a desperately close first of two races before powering past his opponent in the second.
"I don't know, the goal was just to come here and race," an elated Phillip said Sunday.
"Just being here is a blessing, and being able to step up to the plate and do this it's just incredible."
Phillip started riding at the age of nine when he migrated to the United States to live with his father.
But, aged 13, he was back in Trinidad and had given up cycling, mainly because his mother wanted him to concentrate on his studies.
However, Phillip was an unruly pupil -- he described himself as suffering from ADD (attention deficit disorder) in a recent interview with a Trinidad newspaper. His concerned mother sent him back to cycling and he started to do well in local competitions.
Phillip kept cycling when he returned to the US and when he travelled to Trinidad for a meet, local officials were so impressed they encouraged him to turn pro and attend a school for promising riders run by cycling 's world governing body, the UCI, in Aigle, Switzerland.
After six months, Phillip left and moved to California where he currently resides and trains.
His original target had been the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro but success in UCI qualifiers got him to the Olympics ahead of schedule.
"It's been a long road. Being the only cyclist from Trinidad, going to all the World Cups to qualify. I had to go to all of them.
"I really love the sport, I really want to be good, I want to be on a big circuit, I want to be recognised by the Australians and the Great Britain team," Phillip said.
His fairytale story has helped make Phillip a hit with a crowd who, most of the time, are understandably cheering for the numerous British champions who've been dominating track cycling in London.
"For a small island like Trinidad and Tobago to be out here, getting this love from this crowd at the Olympics is just a wonderful feeling," Phillip said. "I already made it here, so I am happy with that.
"I don't know what it is, I hear a lot of them rooting for me, so it's great."
@yahoosports on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook