Teniel Campbell wants to use her position as the first West Indian on the cycling World Tour to inspire more people with a similar background to succeed.
When she was coming up in Trinidad and Tobago she was initially denied the chance to travel to the 2018 Caribbean cycling championships in Martinique, only for a dramatic intervention to help her on her way to the professional circuit.
“This story always makes me emotional,” she told Eurosport's Cycling Show.
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“It was actually my golden ticket to Europe. Somebody at my cycling federation, he didn’t believe I was capable, even of a podium spot at the Caribbean Championships in Martinique.
“They didn’t want to send me.”
In response, her coach Desmond Roberts funded her trip to the event and demonstrated his belief in her on the flight to the competition. Campbell continued:
The first thing he showed me was this [holds up two fingers]: ‘Two golds. I believe in you, you can do it.’
“I went there, I destroyed everyone there in the time trial, followed by the road race.”
Her coach then lobbied for Campbell to be sent to the UCI HQ in Switzerland on a scholarship, which was approved and then extended for a full European season.
“They kept seeing that I was improving and that I was learning," said Campbell.
“I was really fortunate to be on the programme for two years. I really enjoyed my time there. It was my two most critical years.”
Campbell continued to improve and joined the WCC Team in 2019, Valcar-Travel & Service in 2020 and is now at Team BikeExchange. She might not have believed that given her thoughts when she first arrived in Europe.
“When I arrived I checked: -14 degrees!” she exclaimed.
“The first two weeks I was crying, I really wanted to go home. What the hell am I doing here? It’s not my place, it’s not my territory. I was really cracking.”
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In 2020 she excelled, coming third in Vuelta a la Comunitat Valenciana Feminas and 5th at the Omloop van het Hageland. The 23-year-old sees her success as validation more than recognition for her country.
“Being on Team BikeExchange brought up so many more emotions than qualifying for the Olympics Games for me,” she said.
“I know it’s a surprise to people - I know to be on this team they must have seen something.”
Campbell wants to use her platform to inspire more riders from her homeland.
“It’s a start. I’d like to see more of us on the World Tour.
“I really want to give these kids a clear pathway and more opportunities because I knew what it took for me to reach here and it wasn’t easy. Whatever I can do to help them, it’s the best.
“To everyone back home: Your dreams are possible if you surround yourself with the right people.”
Watch episode four of the Cycling Show on Eurosport Player now.
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