Njisane Phillip enjoyed a dream start to his second Olympic campaign, clocking 9.813 seconds in the Flying 200 metres to qualify sixth fastest for the Rio 2016 men's sprint, here in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, yesterday.
But things turned sour for the Trinidad and Tobago cyclist, when he finished third and last in his 1/16 finals repechage race to exit the event. Drawn against German Maximillian Levy and New Zealand's Edward Dawkins in the opening heat, Phillip was unable to challenge for the one qualification spot up for grabs. Maximillian outdueled Dawkins to progress to the next round.
Following his fast Flying 200, Phillip was drawn against China's Chao Xu in the 1/16 finals. But though Phillip was faster in the qualifying ride, it was Xu who got home first, forcing the T&T hope into the repechage.
Phillip was not a happy man at the end of the repechage—in stark contrast to his mood after producing his fastest-ever sea-level 200.
“Definitely beyond expectations,” Phillip told the Express. “I'm just soaking in the moment right now.”
At the 2012 London Games, Phillip just missed out on a podium finish, securing fourth spot in the men's sprint.
“I was excited for the Olympic Games. It's a place that I step up. All the odds are against me at the moment. A lot of hate…a lot of people were counting me out, a lot of teams were counting me out, so I definitely have a lot to prove. Hey, I'm back up against the wall.”
Phillip paid tribute to his American coach Erin Hartwell.
“He put in a lot of work with me for the past five months. I didn't have a coach for two and a half years, so he definitely made a difference here today.”
Though buoyed by his sea-level PB (personal best), 25-year-old Phillip steered clear of any predictions for the sprint.
“I don't want to get carried away. I just want to take it one step at a time. My goal was to try to get a good seed. I definitely got a good seed, so now it's just basically the one-on-one part.”
The head-to-head showdown with Xu, however, did not go according to plan. Maximillian then ended Phillip's hopes of advancing, joy turning into sorrow for Flying Phillip.