The Budo Cup wrap-up: Day two of Team Elite’s latest tournament campaign

PROUD COACH: Team Elite Karate’s coach Barry Winter poses with his winning boys 14-15 team kumite squad after they won gold in the event yesterday at the Budo Cup in Chaguanas.

Team Elite may have carried a smaller team to the Trinidad and Tobago Karate Union’s (TTKU) Budo Cup held at the Central Regional Indoor Sports Arena in Chaguanas this weekend, but they had no problems making their presence felt, as they won an additional six medals to add to their 18-medal tally on Saturday.

The highlight? Team Kumite. And it came as little surprise that the club with the name “Team” in their title dominated the boys 14-15 event later on in the day.

The team events form part of a seemingly new initiative by the local governing body to pull in as many competitors as possible on the floor and to raise the excitement in local competition.

Not enough clubs were involved this time around to form club teams, as is the tradition in the event, which was evident in the senior team kumite (sparring) divisions, which were primarily made up of national team members, who had to decide how they’d mix and match.

Things were more straightforward organisation-wise in the earlier team kata (forms) division, however, the ages of the competitors were mixed throughout.

It may not have been ideal in developing the best competitors in the long run, but for starters it definitely pulled the interest of the spectators on the day, and should bode well for the long run if continued.

Back on the tatami, and on the performance of Team Elite specifically, they were in their element in the kumite events.

Malika Williams, finished third in her earlier kata event, but stormed to gold in kumite, while Dashan Durga swept the boy 14-15 individual kata and kumite categories, winning gold in both. Joshua Mc Sween, a kumite prodigy from the Sangre Grande-based club made easy work of his individual kumite division, and then took another gold home in the team event. Now more on that.

The TE squad lined up against Tiger System karate in a straight final and won with a fight to spare after Durga, his teammate opened with a win in the first bout.

From the looks of things, the squad led by Barry and Lena Winter, can make an impact in team events in the future, as they come from a heavy background of team sparring events in sports karate. Their Inter-Schools competition is usually a breeding ground for children with competition sparring potential.

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Jayon Grant (blue belt) readies another kick against Julian Beckles, during the Boys 8-9 intermediate kumite division at the 14th-annual Team Elite Karate Inter-Schools Championhsips at the Sangre Grande Secondary School in April.

At the end yesterday, Christian Winter won the Budo Award for his sportsmanlike conduct over the two days, which was the icing on the cake for Team Elite. Not only has the younger of the winter siblings was selected for the national team for upcoming events, but he also won the boys 10-11 kata division on Saturday, and was courteous in defeat in the opening round of his individual kumite match against Aidan Batson.

The competition season is in full swing for Team Elite. Expect more in the months to come.

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TTKU Budo Cup Day One: Team Elite take home 18 medals

The opening day of the Trinidad and Tobago Karate Union’s (TTKU) inaugural Budo Cup was held on the tatami at the Central Regional Indoor Sporting Arena in Chaguanas, where the young competitors from the Team Elite sports karate club won a sizeable share of the medals on the day.

CRANE ON A ROCK: Christian Winter performs the kata Gankaku in the final of the boys 10-11 kata division at the TTKU Budo Cup at the Central Regional Indoor Sports Arena yesterday.

Yesterday was the first of two days for the competition this weekend and featured youngsters up to the 10-11 age group in both kata (forms) and kumite (sparring). There was also a new tandem kata event featured, which requires two competitors to do the same kata (picture team kata with one less person).

On the mats for kata, Team Elite’s Christian Winter won the division, breezing through the rounds before helping himself to a gold medal in the final with his performance of the Shotokan kata Gankaku.

Things did not work out for Winter in the boys kumite division however, where he lost to eventual finalist Aidan Batson. Some may argue that the lengthy break between both divisions may have left some of the competitors cold, but the kumite session was as heated as everyone expected.

Winter, who has made a habit of making a clean sweep of his divisions at the TTKU level, was keen on setting things in motion for another gold medal, and another dominant performance. When he faced Batson though, things didn’t go to plan as he was unable to stop him from scoring a couple reverse punches to the body, as well as make his way past Batson’s defence.

Many of the decisions against Winter were contested, particularly his kicks to the head and body, but the judges had already made up their minds and kept their flags at their sides.

Batson moved on into the semi-final, where he also defeated Team Elite’s Jeremiah Duprey (who won bronze), before an intense final against Vishal Sankar, also from (you guessed it) Team Elite.

COMRADES IN ARMS: Christian Winter, centre, and Vishal Sankar left, pose with their medals with Melenia Balkaran, after the kata division. Winter was unable to go past his first round in the kumite, but Sankar avenged the defeat in style.

Sankar showed promise in the rounds towards the final, beating Ethan Timothy in his semi-final before facing off with Batson, where he used his reverse punch to good effect to score twice, before using his ring intelligently to deny Batson a chance to come back into the fight.

A composed performance in the end to not only set the stands alight, but to also avenge his teammate and take home the gold medal in the most coveted division on the day.

Today will be the second and final day of competition at the same venue, where the older Winter sibling, Chelsea, will see if she can prise two more gold medals for her school.

The senior divisions will be on the cards as well, although there will be no Keiden Joseph, as he is out with an injury. But Jyri Spicer, Kyle Ready, Shiva Sookdeo, Hamali Francis and a number of other regulars will be expected to be out in full force.

T&T, and the Gold Cup that almost was

The story of our successful 2000 Gold Cup campaign

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TICOS SAMMICH: T&T’s Jerren Nixon centre, tries to evade the close attention of Costa Rica’s Jafet Soto, far left, and Mauricio Wright, during their Gold Cup quarter-final in February 2000.

At the turn of the century, Trinidad and Tobago were on the cusp of their first CONCACAF Gold Cup.

You heard me right. This was long before our 4-4 thriller against Mexico in our last appearance at the competition in 2015. Long before our back-to-back quarter-final appearances in the same tourney under Stephen Hart in 2013 and 2015. Before Jamaica managed two appearances in the final in consecutive editions. Way before our historic berth in Germany 2006, and even before the media began calling the team the “Soca Warriors”, but not too long before.

The team was just called T&T in those days, and the experienced team that went to the Gold Cup, eternally hosted in the United States, were in touching distance of winning their first major international silverware.

No disrespect to the Shell Caribbean Cup, or the Copa Caribe, or whatever the regional competition is called nowadays. In spite of our record eight titles in the competition, winning the Gold Cup would’ve really given us some credibility in the international game.

Instead, Canada beat the red, white and black in the semi-final and went on to win the title against Colombia with a 2-0 win in the final not only to the disbelief of a nation of only 1.3 million, but to the incredulity of an entire confederation.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here, let’s track back a bit, shall we?

The build-up

The year was 2000, and the Y2K scare was finally behind us. The Gold Cup, a generally bi-ennial tournament for the confederation, kicked off in February, and as usual, Mexico and the US were overwhelming favourites to capture yet another title.

In terms of the business end of the tournament, few would have taken T&T seriously before a ball was kicked, despite the fact that the twin-island nation was 49th in the world rankings. So much so, that the then Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF), struck a deal with Manchester United that Dwight Yorke could leave the tournament early and return to the club. It was at the time, a sure way to get our world class striker in the fold during the middle of the Premiership, but it also sent a clear message of how far we were expected to go in that competition.

With the qualifiers for the 2002 World Cup right around the corner however, T&T were in a rich vein of form.

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COACHING LIFE: Angus Eve has enjoyed a very successful life as a coach in the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL). He has coached Naparima College to two trebles in the last four years.

“The camp was a very positive one,” said Angus Eve. “It was a very experienced camp also, because a lot of our players were playing in Europe at the time, and some of the guys were playing in the MLS… so we had a lot of guys who had a lot of experience and a lot of World Cup campaigns under their belts also.”

Eve was one of the best players in the last 20 years. He played a significant part in not only that Gold Cup, but also in the “Soca Warriors” team that contested the 2002 World Cup qualifiers. The former winger who has made the most appearances for T&T, and is currently plying his trade as a coach, spoke with TSK this week, recounting some of the memories from that Gold Cup.

“Coach Bertille St Clair was the catalyst to bring the group together, because he was disciplined and that was the type of thing our players needed. He also added a good spirit, and everybody felt a part of the programme and the process. I would say the environment the coach created was a professional environment, and the experience of the players allowed us to excel in that tournament.”

St Clair’s men qualified for the 2000 Gold Cup  as Caribbean runners-up after a 2-1 defeat to Jamaica at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in July 1998. Then in the following year, a series of positive results pushed T&T up the world rankings. First, we won the Caribbean Cup for the seventh time, defeating Cuba 2-1 at home in tournament dubbed the “Copa Caribe”. Then followed a 2-0 home win over South Africa, a crazy 3-3 draw with Panama, and a roller-coaster 4-3 win over Colombia later in the same year. The results against our Latin American neighbours were both away from home, mind you.

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TITLE WINNER: For Soca Warrior, and key member in Bertille St Clair’s 2000 Gold Cup set up, Angus Eve receives his SSFL Premier League winners medal in 2015 at the Ato Boldon Stadium after Naparima College defeated Shiva Boys 1-0 to take the league. It was their first title in their 2015 treble.

Opener against Mexico

But the start of the 2000 Gold Cup campaign brought the hopes of die-hard fans crashing back down to earth when Mexico rained four unanswered goals in a comical performance on February 13. And no, it wasn’t a Friday either, but the result on that Sunday certainly felt like a bad omen.

Rafael Marquez (yes, that Marquez) chested a cross before lashing home past Clayton Ince from just outside the box 35 minutes into the contest. Then Luiz “El Matador” Hernandez crashed home a volley off the post in the 52nd minute to double the lead. To add insult to injury, Shurland David scored an own goal, heading into past his own keeper off a wicked, inswinging corner in the 75th, before Francisco Palencia added the fourth, his ponytail flapping as his deflected shot trickled over the line.

A 4-0 defeat in an opener at any tournament would be criminal result for any team (just ask Portugal in 2014), but at that time, a win by a decent margin in the following match against Guatemala would have been enough, as the tournament featured three-team groups.

And win they did, as the stalwarts did the business against the Central Americans two days later to all but guarantee their place in the last eight. Russell Latapy opened the scoring in the 26th minute, while Arnold Dwarika doubled the lead ten minutes later, before our skipper David Nahkid got the third in the 52nd minute. Dwight Yorke, our biggest star at the time, fresh from his treble-winning season with Manchester United the previous year,  and arguably our greatest footballing export, scored in the 83rd, to round-up a decent, albeit expected 4-2 against weaker opposition. Guatemala’s 1-1 draw with Mexico meant that T&T would face Costa Rica in the quarter-finals in San Diego.

Ticos victory and that Trotman goal

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And this is where our Gold Cup campaign really kicked-off.

To sum it all up, we beat Costa Rica. Sorry for the spoiler, but this is almost a 20-year-old match at this point, and it should also be a well-known fixture for the die-hard trini fan. In the terms of the national team, the matches against Haiti in 1973, the US in ‘89, and most recently against Bahrain in Manama, in 2005 are possibly the top three in the pantheon of the T&T football mythology.

Most middle-aged people on the streets could remember Paul Caligiuri’s goal at the then National Stadium in ‘89 like it happened yesterday. For the younger generation, we have the current national coach Dennis Lawrence’s header against Bahrain as a happier memory to pass on.

That match against Costa Rica though, has been unfairly forgotten, or rather, not as hyped, even though it deserves to be up there with the great T&T football moments. Maybe it’s the way it was won; golden goals are always a special thing, particularly now as the rule doesn’t exist anymore.

We weren’t expected to win despite Costa Rica ranked 63rd in the world at that time, and drawing all their matches in Group D, their respective Gold Cup group. Plus, keep in mind that we had never beaten Costa Rica at that point in competitive football. Ever.

The most iconic thing about that match was the match-winning goal and its scorer. Mickey Trotman had one of the shortest international careers (between 1999-2001), and in 26 matches for T&T, he scored five times.

He had the Midas touch, though. In his very first match for us he scored. Remember that match I mentioned earlier against South Africa in 1999? Header in the 24th minute. Then his most historic goal in his national colours came at the Qualcomm Stadium, the same venue where Mexico rocked us a week earlier.

“I don’t think anyone of us caught him since, because he ran all the way around the pitch and ran straight into the dressing room,” Eve said with a laugh. “The game was a good game, we were one-all and they still had the golden goal rule at that time… I think it was in the second half (of extra-time) and Mickey scored a really good goal, a really good team goal… he got the opportunity and he took it.”

It wasn’t the type of goal that made golden goals famous, maybe that’s why it’s easily forgotten. It isn’t the Oliver Bierhoff swivel and volley from the Euro ‘96 final against Czech Republic, nor was it David Trezequet’s left-footed cannon one-timed from almost the hip level against Italy four years later at the same tournament. Trotman’s goal as simple as it gets: a toe poke from around 12 yards out, in off the post.

It wasn’t epic, but as I said, Trotman had the Midas touch, and he turned the ball into gold, a golden goal. The lasting image from the match, and indeed, that entire Gold Cup for T&T fans was “Los Ticos” keeper, Hermidio Barrantes glancing back, and then clasping his face in despair whilst still rooted to the spot in the most comical horse-riding position. We were through to the semis!

Ohhh @$#%, Canada!!

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SEMI WOES: T&T’s Arnold Dwarika, right, tussles with Canada’s Jim Brennan in the 2000 Gold Cup semi-final.

This had to be it. “Trinidad going to win the Gold Cup!” I remembered the enthusiasm in second form at Queen’s Royal College despite the fact that a minimum 180 minutes of football were still on the cards before we could lift the trophy. Where had this sudden confidence come from? Well, our opponents were going to be Canada, who beat Mexico – yes the same Mexico team that gave us the opening-day clubbing – in their quarter-final with an unexpected 2-1 win.

How were this team coming from ice hockey country going to beat us? The odds at that point were in our favour.

We had Yorke, “Latas”, Dwarika, and players featuring in England for God’s sake. Four days before that semi, was to date, our most historic win. Plus, Colombia, whom we had defeated just a few months ago were already in the final, we could repeat that result for sure. We were the current Caribbean Champions! They had to qualify for the Gold Cup via the playoffs (scoffs) and had only never made it out of the group at the tournament in three previous attempts.

Amidst all the euphoria Canada beat us 1-0 in the semi-final, and then went on to win the tournament.

It was a strange match, but then again, Canada’s entire campaign was strange. It was just one of those things lined up in the heavens; like Denmark winning Euro ‘92 after only being invited at the last minute.

Canada only made it out of their group with Costa Rica and South Korea after a coin toss. All teams were level on points, and Costa Rica had already qualified thanks to scoring the most goals over two matches. The toss determined who would qualify between the Canadians and Koreans, which Canada won. Then, they continued exceeding expectations when they beat Mexico to book the famous semi.

The Canadians were 36 places below us in the FIFA rankings, and by the run of play, it showed; St Clair’s men were all over them, especially after Mark Watson’s header in the box went past Ince. The football gods were with the North Americans that night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, as Nahkid our skipper, headed wide from a set-piece with only Craig Forrest to beat.

Forrest was the difference, as he saved a penalty and made a highlight reel of saves to keep T&T at bay. Canadian midfielder Paul Stalteri was gobsmacked in hindsight. “We probably played our worst game in the tournament against Trinidad. Forrest; I don’t know how many point-blank saves he had to make to help us win, because we were not at our best in that game,” he said in an interview on Fansided. “We were coming off a high against Mexico, and I thought that we struggled. At any moment, they could have scored.”

He was right, and if a certain Stern John were in that Gold Cup squad, things may have been different. The Nottingham Forest striker had to undergo knee surgery however, and just missed out. Eve believed that Yorke’s absence may have proven to be decisive. “Each game is different, and each tournament is different,” he said. “We had a good spirit going into the game, but there was a deal struck up with Manchester that Dwight would have to leave the day before the semi-final… I thought that that rattled the camp a little.”

So close, but yet so far. The gods also have a strange sense of humour. When the World Cup semi-final round started a couple months later, team T&T travelled to Edmonton, Canada, where we dispatched the hosts 2-0 thanks to a scorcher from Eve, and another goal from Yorke. In the return leg at home T&T were flying in the qualifiers, coming off a 6-0 win at the Queen’s Park Oval against Panama, before beating Canada again 4-0 at the same venue.

That’s the beautiful game however, sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss. However, die-hard T&T fans will never forget those few days in early 2000, when just for a moment the Gold Cup was just within our grasp. A moment when we dared to dream.

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EPIC SCENES: The Soca Warriors jubilate during their 4-4 thriller against Mexico at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Dry land and wet skies, a short recap on April’s Coaching the Coaches clinic

THE CREW: The entire slew of coaches including Lemos, and TBL’s Narada Wilson, and Cy Padmore.

In the morning, the dark skies and rain threatened to crash the party, then the sun came back; not allowing the earlier inclement weather to steal its shine. The topsy-turvy weather conditions weren’t enough to stop the action on the Queen’s Royal College pitch at the “Coaching the Coaches” clinic two months ago.

This contrast was an interesting motif throughout the day. Most of the first half of the coaching clinic was spent indoors under a considerable amount of air conditioning. Meanwhile, outside looked as if the rainy season had arrived about two months too early, while in the QRC gymnasium, football, an activity as physical those things definitely tend to get, was retrofitted into a classroom session with a projector, statistics and methods on how to get players ready for an extended period of organised football.

CLASS IN SESSION: Lemos took a professional approach in explaining the concepts of the Brazilian game to the local coaches in attendance at the clinic.

The cherry on cake of opposites meeting each other, was that a Brazilian coach was behind the lectures, sharing knowledge from his homeland.

Don’t get me wrong, Brazilian football from a coaching standpoint is very developed. For instance, Luiz Felipe Scolari is one of the most successful coaches of all time, and yet when most people think about Brazilian football, they think mythical beaches, and some nice “Ginga” on JogaTV ad of Nike yesteryear.

On that unusually wet dry season day on April 6, where César Augusto Lemos, a coach from São Paulo, took front stage to share the methods from one of the best developmental systems in the world.

The day itself was the idea of the Cox Football Academy, which was helped to be realised by The Brazil Link. An idea where football would meet the classroom, or rather, the coaches spending more time getting used to the scientific and strategic concepts behind planning a season with a team.

The session went on for hours, but it was time get out onto the field to put the theory into practice, time to come back out into the sun, which was grilling everything it could touch. Not far away in the pavilion a group of around 30 schoolboys were not-so-patiently waiting for their chance to show their Paulista visitor what was what, on the field.

TO THE FIELD: The coaches took the youngsters through the motions after the indoor session.

The youngsters weren’t the only ones eager to show off, so were the coaches, who in spite of the arid conditions put the youngsters through their paces to an impressive degree.

“When I was on the field, I realised they had great understanding for beginners,” Lemos told The Sports Kiosk. “I really think when we come (back) in July, I will have lots of questions to answer, and I’m really looking forward to it… this group will apply what they learnt (today) between now and July.”

The Brazilian also noted the similarities between our game and theirs, and how we can improve on our game because of this.  “We are in America, so we have some things in common. There’s something about this continent that – I don’t know – we share a common view of life. Even the way the players here deal with the ball; I see a Trinidadian player with the ball, it reminds me of a Brazilian player; He just wants to have fun, he just wants to have his own moment,” he said.

STRETCH IT OUT: Players cool down after the “Coaching the Coaches” practical segment at the QRC ground in St Clair on April 6.

“I do think you guys have the talent, of course you have the genes; you guys are fast, tall and strong. Any coach would love to have a player who has these features.

You guys do have the skills, however, what needs to be developed is the decision-making. Yesterday I took a session with a local club, and I could see that the players had the skills, but sometimes what to do with the ball, when to do, and how to do? They didn’t have that.
“That was one of the things I wanted to talk about in my topics here today, so we need to make sure that throughout their development, in each age group we are teaching specific tactical abilities.

Sometimes you see older players with no understanding of the game at all, and that’s the struggle… if we keep progressing and have a very specific and long-term plan, to develop, in the long term you will see results.”
Lemos will have a second time to make an impact, as he will be back next month for a follow-up to the course. With the amount of Republic Cup and Youth Pro League action in the past two months, hopefully some of the coaches involved, including San Juan Jabloteh’s Keith Jeffrey will have a lot of feedback and progress from the last time Lemos was in the country; on a mixed weather day at the QRC ground.

ARID CONDITIONS: The height of the dry season turned the QRC ground into a footballing Sahara.

Costa Rica Open next for Breedy’s troops after successful Suriname tourney

Taekwondo trainer touches on tournament success, as well as his school’s comprehensive programme

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ALL SET: The Edson Breedy Athletics team were ready to head off to Paramaribo Suriname, where they won four medals at the Arthy Lie Taekwondo Open, which included one gold, and four silver medals.

When we last touched base with the Edson Breedy Taekwondo Academy, the school was moving from strength to strength, and had classes running for almost two years, and months before competed in last November’s National Championships and taking home 36 medals.

That was in January. Today, the Academy now falls under the umbrella  Edson Breedy Athletics, which is a holistic center that teaches a variety of other disciplines to people that opt to walk through their doors at their Abercromby Street, St Joseph, facility.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First, The Sports Kiosk tackled their recent successful dip in the pool of international martial arts competition, which brought home silverware for the team.

Roughly a week and a half ago, Breedy carried a six-member team to Paramaribo, Suriname, for the Arthy Lie Taekwondo Open which saw another four medals, three silver and one gold, on their international competition debut.

“Our training camp was six weeks. Because it was an open event, it was based on our club selection. What we do is beforehand, we tell students a tournament is coming up and we give a deadline to people who are interested and encourage the athletes to take the step to becoming competitors. Once they sign on for a particular competition interested, we start preparing them. Though our programme is designed to breed competitors there is no pressure and we welcome casual practitioners who simply want to get fit and learn to defend themselves” Breedy told TSK.

“Costa Rica (Open Taekwondo Tournament) is coming up on August 27th, we’re giving until June 30th for everyone who’s interested to say so, and the next day the special camp will start for the athletes who will be preparing for the Costa Rica Open.”

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UP AND COMING: Taylor Macgregor, an eight-year-old St Joseph Girls RC pupil and Edson Breedy Taekwondo Academy student, poses with her Best Female Junior Fighter, Best Female Junior Forms, Best Overall Junior trophies after at the National Taekwondo Championships last November. Photo: courtesy Kibwe Braithwaite

In their most recent foray on the mat, eight-year-old Taylor Macgregor of St. Joseph’s Girls R.C won a gold medal, while Nia Thompson, Siobhan Rogers and Tarik Murell all seized silver, which was a decent showing for the Academy’s first international event.

Things are solidifying for the Academy on the competition floor, but Breedy, who has represented Trinidad and Tobago on a number of occasions, and has also made a decent push for Olympic qualification for the 2016 Games in Rio, insisted however, that his school has evolved from just teaching competition Olympic-style taekwondo, and that competition is not his main focus.

Now he and his coaching team have amassed a number of different programmes which could suit the palate of a wide range of students.

“In total we offer taekwondo, kickboxing, grappling, boxing, mixed martial arts, tricking, yoga, and strength and conditioning,” he explained. “The overall idea is to give people options to be active, not just with martial arts, but with other ways of moving around to get people more fit and to find a way for people to stay safe as well.

“ ‘Do what moves you!’ is the central theme of Edson Breedy Athletics”, as we aim to provide access to effective and interesting  fitness options that will keep people motivated to keep coming back. We offer classes that are high-level enough that allow people to pursue the discipline competitively or also hang back and enjoy a casual experience. By having strength and conditioning, yoga, and different combat sports in the same place, it allows people who are aiming for the highest level of competition to have access conditioning, stretching and their martial art of choice in the same place so they can really get in the hours and reps that they need to compete.”

As mentioned in our previous feature, Breedy still has his eyes on a potential place at a future Olympic Games, which would mean that the four-year cycle will start after he finishes his studies in medical school this year.

“One of my goals is still to continue competing when medical school is finished… if anything, I will be trying to go for Paris 2024, because I need a full Olympic cycle to get ready for that, and I’ll be finishing medical school in November, so I definitely don’t have time for 2020,” he said in January. “I need to make sure that certain things are in place infrastructure-wise in Trinidad for it to actually be possible.”

Nevertheless, the taekwondo-player-turned-coach has taken life as a trainer by storm, and is excited by the journey so far, as the developmental side of combat sports offers its own benefits.

“You get to see people come in who are not in good shape, who don’t believe in themselves transform. As time passes they get stronger, more confident and happier as they become part of the community, and that is always an extremely fulfilling thing to observe as a coach, so I get a lot of joy from it.”

As mentioned earlier, the Costa Rica Open will be the next stage on the international circuit for the Academy. Locally, however, the National Championships, which are set for October, will be next on the radar.

“The next local competition  will be the Taekwondo National Championships in October, and I will be hoping to host my own competition (for the second time) after my final exams in November.”

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/edsonbreedytkd

Instagram: @edsonbreedytaekwondo

Website: http://www.edsonbreedytaekwondo.com

 

Teniel Campbell: a brief history

Chronicling the young rider’s launch into women’s cycling fame

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Ever wondered what the first top-100 road rider ever from Trinidad and Tobago would look like? Here she is. Teniel Campbell is currently 41st in the UCI rankings. She cracked the top 100 last month.

Teniel Campbell is the endurance cycling “GOAT”.  

Now I’m not the kind of writer prone to declaring absolutes in sporting excellence, so hear me out. The GOAT moniker, an acronym for the “Greatest of all time”, has been the recent rage in sports circles across the world, particularly if we’re talking about basketball or football, and has even infiltrated sports advertising; think Lionel Messi’s kitsch Adidas ad on the eve of last year’s World Cup 

For me, calling the 21-year-old endurance rider the greatest, is by no means an overdose of the hype typical of the sports social media zealot who might just be in search of the next big thing like a toe-curling shot of valium, neither is it an attempt to heap ridiculous expectations on the shoulders of the young and talented athlete, and it definitely isn’t an insult to her endurance predecessors and contemporaries. She just simply is to date, our greatest women’s endurance rider to hit the pinewood/asphalt.  

Now hear me out, no offence to the Costa sisters, Jessica and Alexi, Cheyenne Awai, or Christiane Farah, who are all regular faces in Trinidad colours (Alexi Costa improving as the years go by), but Campbell, who has been racing across the world for over a year, has made a knack of turning the unprecedented into yesterday’s news. And then, when that’s not good enough, she does it again, and again, at the highest possible level.  

Before July 2018, T&T sports fans fresh from a World Cup that raised pulses to palpitating extremes, had never heard of a woman from the 868 who was able to medal at the CAC Games, or make a podium in a UCI World Tour event.  

Campbell did the former four times, and the latter at the Tour Thailand, finishing second overall! 

She then burst into the top 100 in the world road rankings last month, currently sitting at 41st in the official UCI standings, and is the first Trinidadian rider, man or woman, to do so. She then won two golds and a bronze medal at the recent Pan American Championships clocking the best time in the U-23 time trial, before finishing third overall in the road race. This helped T&T to a second-placed finish in the medal tally.  

The rider who competes professionally with the UCI team, just won’t take no for an answer where barriers are concerned, as she has made a recent habit of paving the way hopefully for other female riders to follow in her legacy.  

Her current ambition since focusing totally on road racing after her triumphant CAC Games, is to knock another barrier out of the park and set another precedent: qualifying for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, next year. 

“Her focus is two-part: try to get in the top 100 in the world in the individual ranking, and if she can’t get that, then the next option is the Pan American and World Championships to be one of the top three cyclists who did not qualify in the nation ranking and the individual ranking,” said cycling analyst Gary Acosta, and curator of Plain Sports, Bad Manners in an interview months ago on this site. 

“That’s her goals right now, and to be honest with you, she has the pedigree to do it, she would have shown it at the CAC Games to win the CAC road race, now is really for her to go out there and even get the assistance of the Alexi and Jessica Costas as well too, so there will be an onus on her having a team with her, a capable team with her, to give her some assistance on the road for that event.” 

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T&T’s Teniel Campbell is currently on the Olympic road cycling quest.

Let’s back-track a bit. Where did Teniel Campbell come from, and what has she been doing in the buildup to her recent success on the world stage?  

Since Njisane Phillip’s exploits at the London Olympic Games in 2012, casual interest in local cycling has skyrocketed in the seven years since, and there have been a band of young riders who have made a collective mark since 2016 for Team TTO. 

Nicholas Paul, Tyler Cole, Jabari Whiteman and Campbell are the four hopefuls that have transitioned superbly into senior-level cycling.  

Both Paul and Campbell for obvious reasons have hit some dizzying heights, and fans should expect Cole and Whiteman to find their feet very soon at the highest level; Cole has been training under the watchful gaze of Andy Sparks in the US, while Whiteman recently has switched to the sprints to cash in on his ability to burn the track with his top-end speed. 

On this Mother’s Day afternoon however, The Sports Kiosk will be shifting the focus to Campbell, who is making a serious case to become the T&T’s first woman to qualify in cycling at an Olympic Games. 

In my early coverage of local cycling, Campbell was still a teenager, and raced under the blue, black and yellow of Rigtech Sonics Cycling Club, few at that time expected that the lanky endurance cyclist would eventually become one of the all-time great Trinidad and Tobago cyclists before her 22nd birthday.  

I was also guilty of this oversight, as the year was 2015, and Njisane Phillip was blazing a trail toward his second Olympic Games in Rio, while also dominating the headlines whenever he raced locally. He won the sprint double at the 2015 National Track Championships at the Arima Velodrome, beating Quincy Alexander in the sprint final, and smoking the field in the keirin final. 

At the start of 2015, he, Kerron Bramble and Kwesi Browne combined for a gold medal effort at the Milton Games in Canada. In July of the same year, he returned to the land of the maple leaf and poutine, where he seized silver in the sprint. Phillips was already a seasoned pro at that time; everybody knew that. 

 A new sprint phenom emerged in junior women’s cycling in the form of Kollyn St George, who won double gold in at the Junior Pan Ams in Aguascalientes, Mexico, smashing the team sprint record with Keiana Lester in the process.  

So as usual, the sprint cyclists were hogging acres of print in the newspaper real estate as reporters were eager to get into the slipstream of the top names in local sprint cycling.  

Where did this leave Campbell at the time, and what was she doing on the track?  

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Teniel Campbell celebrates with her UCI teammates during last month’s Tour of Thailand.

The rider with the lithe frame and long legs, showed promise from even her days at Rigtech Sonics. Maybe it ran in her blood; her older brother Akil was already making moves in the local circuit as an endurance rider, but the Campbell sister was already adept at mounting the podium at her age level. 

In 2014 she was road race champion at the junior level, a feat she repeated a year later adding the time trial title to her CV. In 2016 as a senior, she repeated the time trial feat, before really holding her own at the regional road level a year later, winning the road race and time trial.  

That was on the asphalt abroad in road competition. What about on the local tracks? Campbell was also formidable in spite of the lesser media attention. At the 2016 Easter Grand Prix, she spoilt the sprinters’ party in the women’s keirin, when she flashed past the line ahead of American Brandy Marquadt and St George which showcased Campbell’s versatility on the track.  

In 2017 in the first National Championships to be hosted at the spanking-new National Cycling Centre in Balmain, Couva, she made easy work of the women’s points race to win the omnium overall – she was able to capture all the sprint primes in the process. That win came off the back of her points race and keirin double the night before. 

It was time for the next level. Last year Campbell followed in the footsteps of Paul to the UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle, Switzerland, where she went on scholarship to train at the highest level to refine her game. Things were quiet for the time being, as the focus dialed in once again back to T&T’s sprinters, who were globe-trotting in their attempt to fulfill a hectic schedule which included World Cups, the Commonwealth Games, CAC Games and the Elite Pan Am Seniors.  

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Teniel Campbell poses in front of her cycling home for the last year. The UCI World Cycling Centre in Laigle, Switzerland. Image: courtesy UCI

At the 2018 CAC Games, the sprinters did their thing and then some. Paul in particular bagged three gold medals in the team sprint (Games record), 1km time trial and the individual sprint, making his country proud in his upward soar towards greatness.  

The time was right for Campbell to make her mark at major international competition though, and she also carved her name into the annals of T&T cycling history.  

What followed had local fans and media alike, dizzy for the next few days. The endurance rider was seven seconds off the time for a podium finish in the time trial – a result that left her almost furious.  

However, three bronze medals (scratch race, individual pursuit and omnium) followed in quick succession, making her the first Trinidadian woman to ever medal in an international cycling event, before she superimposed that history with a gold medal in the women’s road race. 

“I went into the Games with the mindset to win. I was fourth in the time trial, just seven seconds off the podium, and I was very disappointed. Then on the track, I won three bronze medals – in the Scratch, the Omnium and the individual pursuit. So when it came to the road race, there was no way I was going home without a gold medal. I had to win.” 

The race was punctuated by attacks and breaks, but it was impossible for Teniel, who had only one teammate in the peloton, to follow all the moves. After the group came together three kilos from the finish, Teniel timed her sprint perfectly to take victory. 

“I just put my head down and sprinted,” she said in an interview after the race. “I thought I had gone too early, and close to the line I saw another rider coming, but I thought ‘no, no, no!’” It was all yeses and fist-bumps as the local cycling fraternity was on cloud nine, spoilt for options for people to congratulate after the Games.  

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Team effort! Teniel Campbell greases palms with one of her mates after during the Tour of Thailand. She finished second overall in after three stages.

Campbell is certainly not alone, as she has a supporting cast in the local women’s cycling fraternity. The Costa sisters have doubled in their strength on the road and track in the last 18 months, and Awai has also shown improvement on the local competitive scene.  

Now with Campbell showing that the ladies can stake a claim in the leading peloton, it leaves an exciting sense of “what if?” in the near future of women’s cycling. Hopefully a potential place in the Olympics will inspire more interest from girls at the earliest possible level in the sport.  

Regardless of what happens, Teniel Campbell has already made the breakaway into T&T cycling history. She is indeed the GOAT. 

Teniel Campbell’s CV (abridged): 
2014:
             – Caribbean Junior Road Race Champion
2015:
             – Caribbean Junior Road Race Champion
             – Caribbean Junior Time Trial Champion
2016:
             – Caribbean Time Trial Champion
2017:
             – Caribbean Road Race Champion
             – Caribbean Time Trial Champion
             – National 500m Champion
             – National Omnium Champion
             – National Keirin Champion 

2018: 

-CAC Games bronze (scratch race, individual pursuit, omnium) 

-CAC Games gold road race 

2019:  

-Tour of Thailand; third (stage one), first (stage two), second (stage three). Second place. 

-Pan American Championships: U-23 Champion (time trial, road race), fifth overall (time trial), third overall (road race). 

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You’d better believe it. Teniel Campbell is rubbing shoulders with the top 100 road cyclists in the world!

Sunday screening for young basketballers

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STANDING TALL: The six-foot, nine-inch forward, who originally hailed from Chaguanas, readies himself to receive a pass during a game in the Kansas Sub-State Tournament. He helped his team, Trinity Catholic School of Hutchinson, Kansas, to a 22-4 record this season. Photo: courtesy NBFTT

In four days, the National Basketball Federation of Trinidad and Tobago (NBFTT) will be hosting its final screening to select the top five male elite athletes between the ages of 15 – 17 years.

The highly anticipated finale is scheduled to take place at the Eastern Regional Sport Complex, Tacarigua from 12pm to 3pm.

In December, 2018 all national federations of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Americas, were given notice of FIBA’s plans to stage several youth development camps geared toward young, elite athletes in various countries.

All NFs were requested to host national screening camps to choose the top five local players within the specified age group.

In preparation for the final screening, the NBFTT executed a series of zonal pre-assessments across T&T in the month of February, 2019. The sessions were completed in the north, south, east and Tobago zones, and included 94 participants nationally.

According to Lennox Sobers, Vice President of Organisation and Development, the top five players from each of the recognised zones were selected to participate in the final assessment, giving a total of 20 shortlisted prospects. However, an additional four players were included in the final group due to the skill level displayed.

Sobers also stated that the extra exposure would give the additional players an opportunity for advanced training to improve in time for the upcoming under-16 national team selection. The top five elite athletes will represent T&T at the Caribbean Basketball Confederation (CBC) Youth Camp that was deferred to July 11-14, in Puerto Rico. The camp was originally scheduled to take place in April.

Successful participants of the CBC camp will be selected for a FIBA Americas Camp, with the possibility of being chosen to attend the FIBA Global Camp, which encompasses the top young elite athletes from all over the world. For the first year of activities, FIBA is placing its focus on boys and is planning to include girls in the near future.

CBC National Screening Finalists

  1. UTHMAN BILAL
  2. JEDIAL BRERETON
  3. JASON FRIDAY
  4. MARLIQUE LEWIS
  5. ARELI LARODE
  6. NATHANIEL PHILLIP
  7. DANIEL CONSTANCE
  8. EZRA’S CONSTANCE
  9. ANDREW SCOTT
  10. J’CON CHAPMAN
  11. J’HUAN HENDERSON
  12. JAEL LEWIS
  13. BLESSINGS BREWSTER
  14. SAMUEL WALDRON
  15. JELANI BLACKETT
  16. NICKOLAI MILLS
  17. JADON DANIEL
  18. SHORN SOLOMON
  19. JAHEIM ELDER
  20. NWADIKE FELIX
  21. NKOSI CORBIN
  22. STEPHEN EDWARDS
  23. ISAIAH SMITH
  24. FREEDOM LEON