Christopher Sellier: The Pan Am kilo King
Christopher Sellier was born in Trinidad Tobago, a country which no cycling tradition. With only 3 tracks and only one in good use he had to overcome all the adversities in Trinidad Tobago. He started riding in 2002, when he was 16 years old.
As a junior, he was the only cyclist in Trinidad history to win Sprint and Kilometer time trial championship 3 year in a row (2002-2004). As Elite, he's been the national Sprint champion in 2005, 2007-2010, and the kilometer champion in 2005 and 2010. After 2005 he didn't ride the kilo (kilometer time trial) again.
In 2010, the 25-year old cycling Christopher Sellier put his country in the top of the World. Chris won a gold medal and set a Pan Am record in the Kilo when he clocked a time of 1:00.995 Aguascalientes, México. With his ride, Sellier ranked world #1 in kilo and became the first and only Trinidad Tobago cyclist to achieve a top spot in world cycling and to have broken a Pan American record.
The start - father's coaching, old bikes and shoes
I started riding when I was 16 years old. I didn't specialize in sprint or endurance, as I did both road and track racing. Only until I reached my last year of juniors I decided to go for sprints.
My father was my coach at the time, and that was hard.
When I didn't do good in a race he got emotionally involved, and honestly I was just enjoying cycling and not expecting too much from myself, but he expected to world of me, and that's understandable.
From a parent's point of view it's good to see your children do well.
When I started to ride we didn't have allot of money, so I used my father's old bikes, and shoes. They were good steel bikes though. The track bike was a hand built Masi. He used that bike in the Munich Olympics. My road bike was another steel frame. It was tough racing against people with better bikes and equipment. It was a mental battle every time I go and race. Even training was tough, as I felt bad having these bikes, and shoes that are older than me. Thankfully I got some help in the form of sponsorship and I got my first "good" bikes when I was 18.
My first Sponsorship and my first "good" bike
My first sponsorship was a guy that my dad coached when he was younger. His name was Deon Lawrence De Souza.
The actual Coach and “allot of hard work”
My coach is Renee Schmidt from Germany. He's been my coach for 3 years now, since I've been at the UCI Training Centre in Switzerland. When I left the school, I decided I still wanted him to be my coach. He grew up in East Germany, so his training style is similar to what he was exposed to. Allot of hard work =) He really believes in hard work, but also in having a good time now and then. Going out and having a couple beers is ok once I don't overdo it. His training is usually 2 weeks cycles. 2 weeks hard, and 1 week not too hard.
My main sponsor is Beacon Insurance Company. They've been my sponsor and team for 2 years now.
I don't think I would have still been riding if it wasn't for them.
I reached a point in my career where I needed to support myself, and I needed money to do that.
Thankfully I got help in the form of their sponsorship, and that kept me on my bike.
The Government also helps, but right now I'm having trouble getting them to give me some funding to continue my training.
Courtesy: Marcel Segessemann
As in Brazil, cycling isn’t a Popular sport in Trinidad Tobago
The infrastructure for training - 3 tracks, only one saved and no security on the road
Despite the adversities a champion has been created
Training and racing for the Pan Am 2010
In April there were 2 grand prix style racing in Trinidad with international riders coming. We had some World champions and Olympic champions like Walter Perez and Junior sprint champion Jullet from France.
We always manage to have World class riders at these races. It's a good preparation for Panams. I like racing before a big competition. I was in Dubai with my coach from March to April. He's also the national coach for the UAE (United Arab Emirates ) So he invited me to come and train with him.
Pan Am 2010 – Fist step: The National Qualify
For the sprint team to qualify for the Panams we needed to do 11.40 in Trinidad. Not many people could go below 11.4 in Trinidad as it's a slow 460m track with allot of wind. Only 3 of us did it. Me, Njisane, and Azikwe.
The other sprinter, Hasseem, didn't do the time, but the federation still decided to send him to ride the Keirin.
Show Time – The Pan Am Began but nobody was expecting anything from Trinidad Tobago
I went to Mexico expecting nothing. I knew I trained hard, but I knew everybody there did. All the countries, all the cyclists, were ready. The Trinidad team was in Los Angeles for 8 days, so that we could get used to riding on wood again. All of us have been on wood tracks before, but it was a long time since we were on one. I wasn't feeling too good I have to admit. I knew to myself that I was in the best shape I have ever been, but my leg speed wasn't converting to the wood too well. But we trained.
The Team Sprint Order
The Team Sprint order was decided while we were there. The trial was a standing 250m, and a flying 200m. The National coach will decide from that who will go in what position. I had the fastest start, and second fasted 200m time. In the end the coach decided that he couldn't put me to start, as I would leave Azikwe. So he put me in 3rd, and Azikwe to start, with Njisane 2nd. I wasn't too comfortable going 3rd, as I was doubting my finishing lap.
“No beeping”, No Gold Medal but The First Pan Am Record for Trinidad Tobago
We went to Mexico 3 days before the Team sprint. We didn't do much as we did our training long before. We just got used to the track and did some team efforts. Day of the Team sprint I was really nervous, as we never did a full team sprint together...so I had no idea how I would feel. But I thought "whatever...I could only do my best".
Much to our surprise the starting gates didn't have the beeping sound to count down the time, so we needed to watch the clock count down. That won't affect the 2nd and 3rd rider, it will affect the starter. And it did. We had a REALLY bad start!!!
Njisane did a really good 2nd lap, and I didn't die too much finishing, so we saved the ride in the end, and finished 4th. I thought we were really lucky to still make it in the finals later in the afternoon. The coach and manager had a few words for the starter. We needed to win that medal. The 3rd and 4th place ride off was coming up, and all of us were nervous.
The Kilo - 2 Days after the Team Sprint
The morning of the Kilo the Canadian ( Travis Smith ) and I were talking, and he asked me " what time you expect later?"
I laughed and said "1 minute". I honestly have no idea what time I was going to do. I haven't done a full Kilo in a couple years. Even in training I never did a Kilo. So I went out there hoping for a personal best...which would be anything below 1.06 =)
I started the Kilo like I knew I had to. The fastest time before me was 1.02.0 by the Colombian Marin, so I couldn't hold back anything.
And Trinidad has shown for the word all its value: Pan Am Kilo Record For Chris
The sprint Day – One Day after the Kilo Pan Am Record
I was really tired. I didn't even want to ride to be honest, but I was representing my country, and I needed to do the job the best I can.
Again I didn't have an idea what time I'll do. I went out there, did everything I needed to do, and did 10.177, and qualified 7th I think.
I went through the Sprint rounds and ended up in the 5-8th ride. I finished 5th, but they relegated me to 8th. They said I left the sprinter's lane.
Gold Medal and New kilo record for Chris
And now, looking for the past, What’s the meaning of becoming a champion living in a country with no cycling tradition as in Brazil?
Becoming a champion? Well, it doesn't come easy =) Every cyclist wants the same thing you want, and maybe even want it more than you.
What I learned from my little experience is that you can't control any of the cyclists racing against you, you CAN control yourself. Do the best you can do, in everything you do. If it's gym, road, or track. Nothing worth getting is ever easy to get.