FOR several years, Nicholas Paul has shown local cycling enthusiasts what he’s capable of, and anyone who observed his ability since his late teenage years expects him to be competitive in whatever competition he enters.
Local fans now assume a world-class showing every time Paul dons national colours, yet he seemingly always manages to surpass these high expectations, going a bit further.
For example, out of nowhere, Paul smashed the flying 200m world record in 2019, clocking 9.100 at the Elite Pan American Track Cycling Championships. The previous record, set seven years prior, was 9.347 seconds, a considerable difference.
The reserved and unassuming 22-year-old exploded on the track in Cali, Colombia, over the weekend, once again reminding the cycling world of his ability by taking an unlikely and unprecedented three gold medals at the UCI Tissot Track Cycling Nations Cup.
In truth, had Paul not showed up for the event in Cali, the national team would likely have considered the trip a success as Akil Campbell himself picked up a precious gold medal in the men’s elimination on Friday.
So with four gold medals, team TTO finished second overall in medal standings, just behind Colombia, which finished on five, and two gold medals more than Poland and Canada.
He can go as far as he wants to, said the outspoken four-time TT Olympian Gene Samuel, speaking with Newsday on Monday.
But it’s not his treble of gold medals at the UCI that convinced him of that.
“He was even better at the Olympics,” Samuel said, adding that his opinion is likely different to locals who simply “look at medals.”
Many in the cycling fraternity, he charged, “don’t understand that the three gold medals he just won there is no where close to what he did at the Olympics.
“We have to educate the public. Everyone is looking at medals.
“What he just did at the Olympics was much better than what he did (in Colombia) because not the whole world was there. It’s only a few counties there.”
That statement, Samuel quickly added, is not intended to take away from his latest achievements.
“It’s fantastic but I want the public to give him extra congratulations for his performance at the Olympics because that was even better.
“People don’t understand (how competitive) the Olympics is. We can’t always look at medals.
Paul made his Olympic debut in Tokyo and finished an impressive sixth place in the men’s sprint after clocking 9.879 seconds. And he was the fourth fastest qualifier, clocking 9.316 seconds in the first round.
He appeared to have advanced beyond that after defeating Russia’s Denis Dmitriev in two quarter-final rides. However, officials decided that a third and decisive ride would be required as the TTO cyclist was judged to have commited a violation in the second race. Dmitriev went on to win the third race to advance to the semis.
Paul also reached to the men’s keirin semifinal but was unfortunately disqualified for an infraction.
“From his qualification time at the Olympics, he has now showed that he is world class, meaning that he could have medalled just as much as he did not medal.
“At that level everything has to be spot on.”
And Paul was indeed world class both at the Olympics and more recently at the UCI event.
He won all three of his medals in Cali without placing as low as second in a since race.
The speed demon upstaged his opponents en route to the sprint gold on Sunday evening, just a day after sealing his second gold, this time in the men’s keirin.
On Friday night, Paul opened his account with a dominant performance in the men’s one-kilometre time-trial qualifying round, and then in the evening with his first gold medal in the final.
Less than an hour later, Akil Campbell earned TT’s second gold medal at the time, winning the men’s elimination race.