Phillip will take an early ride off into the sunset on August 16 after competing at his second Summer Games at the ripe age of 25.
The Olympian’s choice to bring an unexpected end to his decorated career has stemmed from what Phillip considers, ‘betrayal and disrespect by the Trinidad and Tobago Cycling Federation (TT CF) over the past few years’.
Speaking to the multiple national champion from his foreign training base in Canada yesterday, Phillip expressed great displeasure with the fraternity’s recent actions on their decision to replace Rigtech Sonics endurance rider Varun Maharajh as his Olympic seigneur, with TT CF member David Francis.
However, the Siparia-bred speedster made it clear that his decision to retire was solely based on the TT CF being run by ‘volunteers making decisions at an Olympic level’.
“I’m done, no more,” said a clearly upset Phillip yesterday via Skype. “Why? Because I can’t give a poisonous organisation four more years of my life! Four more years of stress and not knowing what’s going to happen isn’t good for me. At this point, I have to make real life decisions. I’m done because they don’t care about and support me.
What am I going to do and support myself for the next four years? I’m not letting anyone take advantage of me.” The youthful rider clashed heads with the local fraternity one more time too many on Thursday when TT ’s official Olympic Team was announced at Olympic House in Port of Spain. Phillip’s designated two-man contingent was revealed to be Francis (manager) and Elisha Greene (mechanic). However, when this list was unveiled by the national Olympic Committee (TTO C), Phillip only then became aware that Maharajh, his preferred and requested choice, was bumped out with the addition of Francis.
While the 2015 Pan Am Games silver medallist admitted that he has no bitter feelings towards Francis, he believes that his comfort, mindset and performance may be slightly hampered without Maharajh playing a crucial supporting role on his team.
“I don’t have a problem with Mr Francis, we are good friends,” Phillip added. “We sat down and spoke to the Federation and I asked them to have Varun and Elisha with me in Rio. Elisha has been to most of my races for the past three years and been fixing my bike all the time. Varun, I think he will assist me well. The best result that I had on the international stage was at the World Cup in Manchester (silver; 2013) when he was in my corner.
He was able to talk to me and carry me emotionally and this is a fact. I don’t have anything against Mr Francis but I’d like to choose who goes with me. The Olympic Games is a place for comfort.” Maharajh however, revealed that he was given official confirmation of his addition to Phillip’s Olympic team on June 14 via an email from TT CF racing secretary Gary Acosta, requesting he either accept or reject the offer.
It read, “I am pleased to inform you that Mr. Varun Maharajh has been selected to represent Trinidad and Tobago at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brasil in the role of Seigneur. Please view Chapter 16 of the approved Selection Policy for the description of duties and responsibilities of this role. Kindly advise by Thursday 16th June, 2016 @ 8:00pm if Mr. Maharajh has accepted or rejected this offer.” Maharajh responded within the given time frame and was never contacted again by any TT CF official on this matter. It was only when this nation’s Olympic team was announced on Wednesday that the pair was appalled by his exclusion.
“In 2012, two foreign nationals (Peter Maharaj, Andy Lakatosh) accompanied me and the same reports were done, so why is it a problem now?” he asked. “If Mr Francis genuinely cares about me and my position he would step aside and let me choose someone who would assist me even more. I’m more comfortable around Varun in a pressured environment. This is emotion building from the last four years, the ups and the downs.
Now is the opportunity, the make or break time, a very crucial time.
International teams support and lean on each other, I’m out here by myself while they (TT CF) have no responsibility.” Claiming he felt hurt and disgusted, Phillip reiterated the many sacrifices he makes on a daily basis to represent TT . While he was grateful for the TT $250,000 annual disbursement of Elite Athlete Assistance funds from the Ministry of Sport, the cyclist lamented that this was still not enough to foot the competitive bills of a professional track cyclist.
In response to Phillip’s remarks and if there still lies a possibility of Francis being removed and replaced by Maharajh, president of the local cycling fraternity Robert Farrier, attempted to clear the air.
“I can’t answer the question if Francis will be replaced,” said Farrier.
“We selected three people based on the requests. The names went to the Olympic Committee and they called us in on July 6 and they said that they could only afford one official, one cyclist. Since that day we pushed to get two through negotiations over the past week and did so. It was only on Wednesday (July 14) the racing committee was advised that they had to eliminate one. They did a round robin because they couldn’t call a meeting and Francis was chosen.” Farrier though, was keen to point out that it was an election (TT CF) year and prospects were working their webs towards his exit. It is still uncertain if Maharajh will be added back to the team as racing committee members shied away from questions surrounding this matter