The recipe for success with Jabari WhitemanGary Acosta
Tuesday, April 19 2016
On a warm Saturday afternoon, a golden San Fernando sunset gracefully comes to rest along the Sixth Form block of Presentation College. Nestled on the verdant San Fernando hill, the building itself, casts a long shadow onto the football field as a young Jabari Whiteman sits calmly on its steps. The quietly confident 15 year old, cladded in his Southclaine Cycle Club uniform and red Giro helmet, peers into the camera patiently awaiting the next snap of the shutter.
ttcyclingfederation.org got the opportunity to sit down with the youngster who has grown to become quote, unquote Mr. Consistent in the local cycling circuit throughout the 2016 cycling season. This consistency extends out of his Juvenile Men category (15-16 years) and into Open events where he competes with seasoned elite level cyclists. In addition to being impressive on the bike, he has also successfully balanced this with the rigors of the classroom.
I once heard a band by the name of Freetown Collective narrate in their namesake recording, “I depend on no one for the sunrise or even the sunset. And I praise no one but my God, for giving me success…” In some uncanny way, it seems as though young Whiteman lives through this mantra. He remains a modest, young gentleman; even when prodded to reveal which cyclist he loves competing against, he kept his answer to a simple one and refrained from naming names.
Entering into his third term of Form 4, Whiteman, a business student, is the newest T&T starlet on the bike and is determined to make his name known. Trinidad & Tobago has always had a strong history in Junior cyclists with names such as Njisane Phillip, Varun Maharajh, Rudy Ashton, Kollyn St. George and Quincy Alexander all excelling during their tenure in the Under 19 category. It seems as though the next person to imprint his name will be from the minuscule Dalley Village in Santa Flora, Trinidad.
Q: At what age and how did you start cycling?
A: At the age of 4yrs I was already off (of) training wheels and racing against myself on my street. I couldn’t do a complete pedal rotation but that did not deter me. I was still riding fast on my bicycle much to the amazement of my neighbor who she screamed with laughter when she realized how I was riding my bike. As I grew older I was able to ride the proper way. I started competitive cycling at age 9 after my mother enrolled me at the Sporting Camp Organized by the Ministry of Sport at the Palo Seco Velodrome where the coach, Mr. Julien Edwards, immediately saw my potential, spoke with my family and history started.
Q: How has Presentation College, San Fernando molded your cycling career and how has it taught you to balance academics and cycling?
A: Presentation College always strives to create all round students therefore with the assistance of the Principal and teachers, you are always encouraged to do your best in the classroom as well as in extra-curricular activities.
Q: The school itself has had great successes in extra-curricular activities from Football, Cricket, Maths Olympiad, Table Tennis etc, do you see yourself as a pioneer to blaze the trail for cycling?
A: I do hope that by my success in cycling, Pres will one day be able to field a cycling team. I know there are other cyclists in the school presently and I hope more will be encouraged to enter the sport.
Q: What is the reception like at school knowing that you are a National cyclist and National champion?
A: It’s a great feeling especially after any big event the Principal usually talks about my successes during assembly and the teachers and students congratulate and give me encouragement to continue to fly the Pres Flag with excellence.
Q: Are there any cyclist(s) you love competing against and conversely any cyclist(s) you hate competing against?
A: I enjoy competing against all cyclists and respect the talents of every cyclist who chooses to be at the starting line because without them there would be no race and I won’t be able to display my talent and have fun racing.
Q: You have showed that at the age of 15 you are capable of rivaling and defeating some of not only T&T’s but regional top class cyclists on the road and track, what do you attribute to this success especially in 2016?
A: My success comes from GOD firstly and is complimented by hard work, being focused, listening to my coach (Dr. Clyde Pollonais) and sticking to the plans set to further my development. Another important factor is learning from my mistakes after a race and not being intimidated by anyone.
Q: How do you plan to continue with this trend of consistency?
A: I plan to keep training and most importantly pray for great health and favourable results in every race.
Q: Debuting in T&T colours in Dominican Republic last year at the Jr Caribbean Champs and coming home with bronze in the Road Race, can you describe that experience for us?
A: It was a great experience! I learnt a lot from it because racing outside was a bit different from what I was accustomed to in Trinidad especially based on the level of ‘Team work’ the other countries were doing but I was able to withstand all their “attacks” and still take the Bronze.
It was a proud moment knowing what I had to go through to get the Bronze and surprisingly after the race I was complimented by the cyclists from the other countries for the work that I put in the race, they thought it was unbelievable because they launched attack after attack and I was still able to get Bronze for my country.
Q: T&T has always had a very strong Junior crop of cyclists and you are evident of this, do you feel any pressure to have to live up to the past performances of the Njisane, Quincy, Varun etc?
A: Ha! Ha! Easy! No pressure! I believe I was born to ride so I’m going to create my own History but I do value the achievements of those before me.
Q: Juvenile National Championships are fast approaching and you have been dominant in that age category for the entire year, do you think a clean sweep could be on the cards?
A: Every time I put my bike on the starting line to compete I do so with great expectation and desire to succeed. I have much respect for all the other cyclists in my events and I know that that the race isn’t won until the bike crosses the finish line ahead of the rest. My goals are always to win all my races with God speed.
Q: You are of age to participate at Junior Pan Ams and T&T has a very strong Junior Endurance unit, do you think it’s time that we also have a Junior Team Pursuit represent the Red, White & Black at Junior Pan Ams this year with yourself included?
A: Yes! I believe this can be the year T & T can make a clean sweep at Junior Pan Ams in the Sprints and Endurance. I believe based on the strong performances of the Junior endurance cyclists once we can keep our focus and train hard we are quite capable of bringing home the gold in the Team pursuit.
Q: For the remainder of 2016 you will now be competing as a Junior cyclist, you have proven that you are capable of rivaling those older than you, what do you think will be most critical for you to transfer your Juvenile domination to Junior success?
A: I think the most critical aspect will entail making right decisions at the right time because I’m aware physical capability must go hand in hand with the technical aspects of racing.
Q: What are your goals for beyond 2016?
A: God willing my goals for beyond 2016 include not just to feature at Olympics 2020 and 2024 but to win Gold Medals especially in the Omnium. I know the journey will be tough but I am happy when I am on my bicycle so I am willing to do the work required together with my coach and family support to achieve my goals. But most importantly my dream is to be the first person of African descent to win “Tour de France”, and I know with God at my side nothing is impossible.
The Trinidad & Tobago Cycling Federation will like to thank Presentation College for allowing us the use of the school's compound for the article's photoshoot and as well to Mr. Denith McNicolls of DENITHY for the amazing photos taken!