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Teniel Campbell: The hard knocks of life

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Teniel Campbell

Teniel Campbell returning to Trinidad and Tobago after winning Junior Caribbean Cycling Road Championships 2015 with brother Akil Campbell and Uncle Frank (Image credit: Courtesy of Teniel Campbell)
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<enter caption here> during Day Three of the 2018 TISSOT UCI Track Cycling World Cup at Lee Valley Velopark Velodrome on December 16, 2018 in London, England.

Nicholas Paul of Trinidad and Tobago in action during the 2018 UCI Track Cycling World Cup (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Teniel Campbell

Kwesi Browne, Trinidad and Tobago, training for the Keirin (Image credit: Courtesy of Teniel Campbell)
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Teniel Campbell

Teniel Campbell (Image credit: Courtesy of Teniel Campbell)
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Teniel Campbell

Teniel Campbell with her uncle Frank (Image credit: Courtesy of Teniel Campbell)
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Teniel Campbell

Teniel Campbell returning to Trinidad and Tobago after winning Junior Caribbean Cycling Road Championships 2015 with brother Akil Campbell and Uncle Frank (Image credit: Courtesy of Teniel Campbell)
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Teniel Campbell

Teniel Campbell and her brother Aki Campbell and uncle Frank (Image credit: Courtesy of Teniel Campbell)

After a successful spring campaign, I was given some days off to rest and recover. We are coming into another important building phase and what better way to do it than on “home grounds” in Aigle, Switzerland.

I’ve seen familiar faces, familiar roads, and most importantly, I’m spending time with my Trinidad and Tobago compartiots Nico Paul, who races the Flying 200, and Kwesi Browne, who races the Keirin. They’re both at the World Cycling Center training and preparing for the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games. 

That was one way to get in some proper slangs, laughter and fun games of All Fours, which is a card game from Trinidad and Tobago that is the absolute best! We also got in a few games of Rummy and Uno before heading back on the road with Team BikeExchange.

The funniest thing was witnessing the effects that the guys had on both staff and riders at the Centre Mondial Du Cyclisme (CMC). It was incredible!

“Shawtyyy” or "Sweet Jesus” were the most common slangs spoken, but there were also so many random bits of dialect here and there, which are inclusive of the Trini accent when each CMC athlete spoke! 

I could not help but notice all of this while also chuckling to myself. It made me proud of how my brothers were being ambassadors for our beautiful country and culture.

Kwesi Browne, Trinidad and Tobago, training for the Keirin

Kwesi Browne, Trinidad and Tobago, training for the Keirin (Image credit: Courtesy of Teniel Campbell)

It's always good to be welcomed back in open arms to a place where I consider my home away from home. As everyone knows, the CMC served a critical part in my early developmental phase and I will forever be grateful for their continued support.

It was such an eventful two weeks, too. I achieved my goals, made some improvements, and my morale was high.

Close to the end of my training stint, however, disaster struck.

In loving memory - Uncle Frank

Usually when you interact with birds the “blessings” they drop, it should mean some form of good luck is coming your way. Apparently, it doesn’t always work out that way. I went on to somersault over my bike with some tumble tucks on the ground. I also got a puncture the following day, on the one time I left my tube, pump and tire levers at home. I had to sit for an hour in the grass waiting for someone to come help me. 

The real devastating blow followed some days later, though, when I received the heartbreaking news of the death of my Uncle Frank. I cannot remember when last I cried so much!

I had puffy bloodshot-red eyes while trying to conceal the pain and depression that hovered. Luckily, I am always surrounded by powerful energy and good people. I was never alone. I had my little mini family surrounding me with 'MG' Magdeleine Vallieres and my coach Alejandro Tablas along with Nico, Kwesi, Jair Tjon En Fa, 'Miri' (Miriam Vece) and the rest of the CMC crew. They were there for me and did their best to help me stay strong when I felt as if I was going to crumble.

One of the hardest parts was the day after the sad news. I thought I was okay and that riding would set my mind free and at ease, until I did my first effort and just ended up with an anxiety attack and crying in the rain. Everything that I was holding in just started coming out. I walked back into Mon Sejour, our athlete residence near the centre, as if all was okay. 

It just did not feel real and my uncle’s passing still hasn’t registered. I had not spoken to him in maybe over two weeks, but everything had seemed fine, and I thought Uncle Frank was doing better.

I arrived to Mon Sejour at 19:20 after training, as I had a double session, with more than 30 missed calls. My first thought? “Nah sum wrong, Akil (my brother) don’t call me so, Uncle Frank is gone”, I was sure … I already knew.

Teniel Campbell

Teniel Campbell's uncle Frank (Image credit: Courtesy of Teniel Campbell)

I rang my mom and there was an awkward moment of silence. She was not crying, she seemed okay, but did not saying anything. She was just looking at me … I’m like, “Yuh could tell meh inno, ah know." 

She said, "he left us this morning, 30 minutes ago." My heart dropped, she cracked, and all the tears and sobs came flooding out. I was still there looking at myself in the mirror - cold in Lycra - holding the emotions inside. After 15 minutes I cracked, too, crying uncontrollably.  

Mom said, “oh gosh mama, Uncle Frank did love yuh, yuh hadda stay strong, yuh could cry inno, but yuh hadda stay strong, we have to stay strong. Uncle Frank believe in yuh, he fight, he fight, he didn’t want tuh leave yuh. He was waiting fuh yuh to reach home in August…" 

The good Lord had other plans. We will miss him tremendously but at least we no longer have to listen and see him in agonizing pain and not be able to do anything about it.

“That child yuh have dey Yufie, she go make it inno, she go make yuh proud, she could do it.” My Uncle Frank.  Maybe all of Mt. Hope Hospital, where he spent his final days, probably knows who I am now. That’s how much pride, love and passion he had for me.

Cyclingnews' newest blog writer Teniel Campbell hails from Trinidad and Tobago and races for Team BikeExchange. She started her career in professional road and track cycling following a full scholarship at the World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle, Switzerland in early 2018. Teniel has achieved success with the WCC programme, Valcar-Travel & Service, and with her national team. She is now making her debut with the Women's WorldTour Team BikeExchange in 2021. You can follow Teniel on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook.