Teniel Campbell will become the first woman in the sport of cycling from Trinidad and Tobago and the English-Speaking Caribbean to pedal at an Olympic Games, when she represents the twin island republic in the women’s road race, in Tokyo.
The 23-year-old attained the status as the first woman cyclist to qualify for the games in 2019 when she acquired her largest haul of Olympic qualifier points courtesy two silver medal performances at the Pan American Games Road Race, and at the Women’s Tour of Thailand, along with a bronze at the Pan American Championships Road Race.
She is also the first woman to medal at the Central American and Caribbean Games in the sporting discipline of Cycling, at a Pan American Championship (road or track event), and at an Elite Caribbean Road Championships, where she established herself as the fourth woman in the Caribbean to achieve the double in the time trial and road race events.
Campbell’s historic Olympic qualification was in no doubt influenced by her stay at the World Cycling Centre which enabled her to compete on the biggest stage and alongside the world’s highest-ranked athletes. She was also the first cyclist from T&T to be ranked in the top 100 of the World Road Ranking therefore Campbell was well prepared and motivated for the challenge.
She completed a two-year training program at the International Cycling Union (UCI) World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland. After this, Campbell was then selected to join an Italian-based UCI Women’s Continental team, Valcar Travel & Service, where she became TT’s first woman cyclist to secure a professional contract. Still currently based in Spain, Campbell is now representing her new club, team BikeExchange.
The Olympic bound athlete spoke about some of the lifestyle changes she made after signing a professional contract in a foreign country. Campbell stated, “What it takes? Definitely determination, drive, commitment and a lot of sacrifices. It does not matter how physically strong you are, once you are mentally weak it affects your performance. You have to stay focused.”
Hunting reasonable apartments, sourcing meals while adapting to the foreign culture and cuisines are some of her tasks when she is off the bike. However, adjusting to the lifestyle of living alone in another country was not the only test she had to face as the COVID-19 pandemic rattled the world in 2020.
In the back of her mind, Campbell wanted to come back to T&T especially during the holiday period, but at the same time, she knew the risks involved. Campbell noted she does not cope too well with stressful environments therefore leaving her routines in Switzerland to then readjust upon return, especially within a pandemic, would have created much uncertainty for the cyclist.
Even though she is trying to be as organized as possible, Campbell admitted she is still finding stability in the transition and adaptation process. However, she does not allow it to affect her performance as she is mentally prepared on the bike. With the support of her teammates and coaches around, she was able to focus her attention when pedaling through the prestigious routes.
She detailed, “The higher you go, the more the workload increases, and if you are not mentally strong, you will crack.” Campbell expressed the importance of a strong support system and being affiliated with those who believe in her abilities. She said, “Always surround yourself with the right people because energy is very critical, and as we know, you absorb the energy around you, as energy transcends. Good energy just motivates you to dig into your mental capacity to spark the fire within you to do better, or to find that ‘will-power’ inside of you.”
Campbell is very committed to growing the sport of cycling within Trinidad and Tobago and throughout the Caribbean as she has been continuously learning and expanding her knowledge through her experiences. Her vision is to inspire and pave the way for the next generation of women cyclists and to aid in the development of the sport. Her mission is to become a legend of the sport, like the woman version of Usain Bolt in Cycling, according to Campbell. Though her ambitions may be audacious, the cyclist eyes her path to success by becoming a World Champion, an Olympic Gold Medalist, along with winning multiple classic races while breaking individual and national records in the process.
We wish Teniel the best of luck at the Olympic Games and anywhere else in world where she represents Trinidad and Tobago on her bike.