‘THANKS FOR NOTHING!’
SANTIAGO, Chile — Cyclist Dahlia Palmer says winning bronze at the Pan American Games is even more meaningful to her because she had to be coached remotely by trainer Robert Farrier, who was suspended by the Jamaica Cycling Federation (JCF).
Palmer took the bronze in the women’s keirin final on Wednesday, October 25, but Farrier had to give her instructions while watching the Games on television in Trinidad and Tobago, where they are based.
“It’s never the same feeling as when you have him in your presence,” Palmer told the Jamaica Observer. “That’s because he understands and knows what the role of the coach, manager, mechanic is.
“So, to have him sitting behind his couch coaching me throughout the entire race is just crazy. He even missed work the morning of my semi-final because that’s the only way he was going to give me the feedback going into the final, get my confidence up and keep my head in the game.”
Palmer says she had tears of joy after finishing the race because of overcoming what she says was a difficult time she was put through by the JCF over the month leading up to the Games.
“When I crossed the line, I wasn’t sure of my position, because I knew I was fighting for the silver and the bronze because it was pretty close,” she said. “It was a photo finish. Even before checking the scoreboard to get the result, I was elated because I knew that I was on the podium. I’m really happy about it and, trust me, it was really a special moment.”
Palmer says Farrier is more than just a coach to her, but a father figure, especially because of how he and his family welcomed her to Trinidad and Tobago since she migrated from Lucea, Hanover. She says her decision to go was partly to study civil engineering, but also because of their velodrome cycling programme.
“If Jamaica did have a velodrome, I would not be in Trinidad,” she said. “That’s the reason I’m in Trinidad at the moment because I finished studying in 2016. Cycling has talent in Jamaica, but at the moment, the talent who want to make it internationally can’t really stay in Jamaica and get themselves there because they don’t have the development or the facilities. Yes, you have the road there, but it also comes down to the safety of cyclists.”
The issue with Farrier started earlier this year when Palmer opted out of travelling to the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in El Salvador from June 23 to July 8. Palmer instead wanted to focus on the Pan American Track Cycling Championships (PATCC), which took place from June 14 to 18 and served as a qualifier for the Pan American Games in Chile, and the Olympic Games in Paris next summer.
She also had an issue with going to the CAC Games because she would have been coached there by national trainer Carlton Simmonds, whom she does not believe to be as competent as Farrier. Palmer also said she did not want a recurrence of past interactions with Simmonds, which she said left her feeling victimised and anxious because she believed had a personal issue with her. Palmer was Jamaica’s only cyclist at the Pan Am Games and any coach sent would be working specifically with her.
“The present JCF executive does not seem to be aware of the level at which I compete,” she said. “That’s why they don’t understand the required support that is needed at these competitions.”
The JCF told Palmer that it could not afford to fund her trip to PATCC, so she would have to come up with the US$4,742.50 ($738,000) needed to travel to that event herself. It also wrote to her saying that it was concerned by her reasons for not attending the CAC Games. The JCF told Palmer that she must comply with itself and the Jamaica Olympic Association’s (JOA) directives because she is a recipient of an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Solidarity Scholarship. It said her behaviour, which it suggested was disruptive and divisive, could bring the sport and the respective organisations into disrepute, and breach the IOC’s Codes of Conduct.
The JCF suspended Farrier from representing Jamaica as one of its coaches for 12 months as of June 19, 2023. It then requested Farrier sign a code of conduct as well as submit his coaching curriculum vitae, and personal details for accreditation along with an apology letter before his reinstatement. Palmer says all of these were submitted but Farrier was still overlooked for Simmonds.
The Jamaica Observer reached out to JCF President Wayne Palmer for a response but calls and messages to his phone went unanswered.
“What hurt me the most is we reached out to them from when we qualified [for Pan Am Games] and let them know that we are available for the event,” Palmer said. “We started our preparation for it and when we reached out to them, we had to send them a legal document asking about the selection of the coach. Even up until then, they kept buying time to respond to the situation.”
Palmer says she found this delay by the JCF disrespectful and that it took a mental toll on her leading up to the Pan Am Games.
But she says in spite of the events that transpired, she always felt supported by the JOA.
“They did not just get me here, but they have been supporting me for years,” she said. “I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart because I appreciate their support and I hope that for the remainder of my qualifying bid, I get their support 110 per cent.”
Palmer is halfway through her qualifying campaign for the Olympic Games and has four more events to compete in if she is to go to Paris. She travels to Australia in February, then Hong Kong a month later. She then travels to Los Angeles, California, and Milton, Canada, in the spring of 2024.
Palmer told the Jamaica Observer that for now, she is just glad to return to Trinidad and Tobago, where she was looking forward to a crab lime with her friends and sporting colleagues.