Njisane Phillip dug deep into his reserves to produce a strong finish to his first Olympic campaign, the Trinidad and Tobago cyclist finishing seventh in the men's keirin, at the Velodrome, here in London, England, yesterday.

And at the Olympic Stadium, Semoy Hackett finished strong in the second of three women's 200 metres semi-final heats. The T&T sprinter advanced to the final as a "fastest loser" after copping third spot in an impressive 22.55 seconds, the clocking equalling her own national record.

"I feel proud to be in the final," said Hackett. "I prepared very hard. I'm mentally prepared."

Hackett was fourth coming off the bend, but powered down the straight to move into third spot, finishing behind American Allyson Felix (22.31) and Ivory Coast sprinter Murielle Ahoure (22.49).

At four o'clock this afternoon (T&T time), Hackett will become the first woman from T&T to face the starter in an Olympic Games 200m final.

Another T&T sprinter, Kai Selvon, finished fifth in the third semi-final in 23.04 seconds and did not progress to the championship race.

"It was the best I could have done," Selvon told the Express. "At the warmup track, I felt something in my leg–a little soreness from a past injury–so I just came out there and did the best I could have done. But I'll be okay.

"The experience was good," she continued. "I get to see how hard I have to work."

Phillip qualified for the second round of the keirin when he was promoted from fourth to third in his first round repechages heat, following the relegation of China's Zhang Miao "for not having held his line during the last 200 metres of the race".

Earlier, Phillip finished fourth in the opening first round heat. The top two progressed automatically to the second round, while the other riders competed in the repechages.

In the second round, Phillip finished fourth in heat one, missing out on a berth in the medal race by one spot.

And then, in the race for positions 7-12, Phillip made a bold bid for victory with two laps to go. He was still out front at the bell, and in the rush for the finish line held off his rivals.

"To tell you the truth," said Phillip, "that was the plan. I said this was my last race for a while, so just put it out there. I went down shooting. It was nice, it was nice. I was hurting though."

Phillip, who finished fourth in the sprint here in London, is now the most successful T&T cyclist in Olympic history. He edged past Gene Samuel, who was fourth in the kilometre time trial in 1984 and eighth in the same event in 1992.

Phillip is satisfied with his fourth and seventh place performances. But at the 2016 Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, he wants to climb the podium.

"The next four years is going to be a long journey, so I'm going to take in a lot from that. My next goal will be Commonwealth Games 2014. That will be the next stepping stone.

"Thanks to the sponsors," Phillip continued, "everybody out there that supported me–tremendous support. I look forward to that support for 2016."

T&T's Wayne Davis II will square off against reigning world champion Jason Richardson for the second time at the London Games, in the first of three men's 110m hurdles semifinal heats, at 2.15 this afternoon (T&T time), at the Olympic Stadium.

Davis and Richardson clashed in the opening round, yesterday. The American topped heat two in 13.33 seconds, while Davis finished fourth, his 13.52 clocking earning him a "fastest loser" berth in the semis.

Davis had to wait about half hour to find out if he would advance. He did, the 20-year-old Texas A&M University student getting to the semifinal round on his Olympic debut.

"I'm just glad I'm in," a relieved Davis told the Express. "Got to rest up, and show people what I can really do."

Conditions at the Olympic Stadium during yesterday's first session were uncomfortably cold at times, the temperature dropping to 14 degrees Celsius.

"I'm used to a lot of heat because I live in Texas, so this is a big, big difference for me. But hey, you got to deal with it because this is where the Olympics is."

Davis won the 2007 world youth (under-18) sprint hurdles title for the United States, but switched allegiance last year. Yesterday's race was his first for T&T, the country of his parents' birth.

"Definitely a good feeling…my parents, making them proud. I'm not from there, but that's part of my roots, and representing my roots is better than anything."

Mikel Thomas bowed out in the opening round of the 110 hurdles. He copped fifth spot in heat three in 13.74 seconds, the T&T athlete hitting all ten barriers.

"Every time I race," Thomas told the Express, "I'm chasing perfection. There were different parts of the race I could have done better. I'm going to learn from this and move forward."

There was also disappointment yesterday for Rondel Sorrillo.

A men's 200m finalist at last year's World Championships, the T&T sprinter was hoping to repeat the feat here in London. However, Sorrillo could only finish fifth in heat two, and his 20.76 seconds clocking was not good enough to secure a lane in the semis as a "fastest loser".

"Coming round the turn," he explained, "the shoe was coming off my foot. After that, I didn't know where in the race I was. I tried to hold my form to come through strong."

Sorrillo, who was eliminated in the 100m semis, on Sunday, said that attempting the sprint double might also have contributed to his sub-par performance in the half-lap event.

"It probably did," he told the Express. "I thought I was able to do it, but I don't know yet."

T&T's world junior champion, Keshorn Walcott competes today in the men's javelin qualifying competition. He has been drawn in Group B, which starts at 3.50 p.m. (T&T time). To secure an automatic berth in Saturday's final, the 19-year-old must reach the 82-metre mark. Walcott's personal best is 82.83m.

By Kwame Laurence

Source: www.trinidadexpress.com


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