Barbados’ triathlon sprint champion Niel Skinner is preparing to take another major step in his sporting and academic career with a scholarship to the Queens University of Charlotte in the United States of America.
The 18-year-old is among the six names from around the world that the Royals have signed for the Fall Season to the men’s triathlon team.
“It took a while to sink in, probably a day or two. This is what is happening. This is the next step in my academic and sporting career. So, it was a bit surreal at first but I slowly adjusted to it,” Skinner said with regards to his acceptance into the Queens University of Charlotte.
Skinner who attended Queen’s College has over the years represented Barbados well in triathlon competition. He won the inaugural Aquathlon National Championship and is ranked 19th in the world. He is also currently in the top five for the English-speaking countries and the Americas.
At the CARIFTA Triathlon Aquathlon and Mixed Relay Championships, Skinner has flown the Barbados flag proudly. The year 2017 was one of his most memorable with gold medal performances in the triathlon and the aquathlon.
With a love for physics and engineering, Skinner told Barbados TODAY he has plans to continue developing his athletics and academics when he leaves for University in July.
“From quite a young age I was always interested and doing things with my hands. Trying to fix what could be fixed, not reinventing the wheel but improving on what we have already done. So, I did some research and found that engineering would be the best thing for me,” he explained.
The Queens University of Charlotte is a small private institution known for its athletics and high graduation rate. What stood out most and piqued the interest of Skinner is the sports program offered at the University.
“Their sports programs mostly stood out to me. Once I saw what was offered with regards to sports, I also double-checked the academics to make sure it was up to par with the athletics,” said Skinner who will be coached by Sonni Dyer, the head of triathlon at Queens University of Charlotte.
A former student of St. Stephen’s Primary, Skinner revealed he has some major plans in sight and stated that his ultimate goal is representing Barbados at the Olympics in 2024.
“I want to do well at school. Also want to represent Barbados at various upcoming triathlon and world events. Then set my focus on the Olympics (in Paris 2024),” Skinner added.
While revealing it has not been easy dealing with online school and training, Skinner noted that he continues to strike a balance between the two.
“It has been quite challenging to keep the school work up to par and then also to bring up the athletics. But knowing I will be going to compete and train with others from around the world I have to keep working hard.
“I had to step up the volume of my training. But it has been a long adjustment.
Now that the Aquatic Centre is reopening I am trying to get in as much training as possible. When the Aquatic Centre was closed I mainly did cycling and running,” he stated.
As one of the top junior triathletes in the country, particularly in the sprint triathlons, now that he is of age, Skinner has plans on stepping into the big leagues by attempting the Olympic distance when he attends university. Skinner has a personal best time of 1:05 in triathlon and is coached by Kim Smith (running), Darny Hernandez (swimming) and Junior Proverbs (Cycling).
Even though he acknowledged that his time is average compared to others around the world, Skinner is working hard on lowering his time in the coming months. It is for this reason as well he has stepped up his level of training.
As someone who considers himself well rounded in triathlon, Skinner said when it comes to the three components of the sport, he favours swimming the most. However, in recent times he has also placed a lot of effort into his running technique.
At the 2020 Barbados National Triathlon Championships, Skinner captured the top podium finish in the sprint. He was also third last year in the inaugural Barbados National Duathlon Championships won by Oein Josiah.
Skinner is one day hoping to reach the level of Josiah (who he competed against many times) and also Matthew Wright who is currently among the best when it comes to triathlon in Barbados.
“From quite a young age I have always watched different events and followed who are the top athletes from the country. I have pictured myself in the same position or around the same level as them and doing what I hope to achieve.
“I have not competed against Matthew as yet but I have competed against Oein a couple of times. I have taken my fair share of licks and given out some. Honestly, it is a good experience because a lot of them do have that international experience that they can share. And they do compete at the same level as the upcoming stars. So, it is good to see where you are compared to everyone else,” Skinner said.