Euphemia Huggins will not have the company of her two children, Akil and Teniel Campbell, as she celebrates Mother’s Day today. The former national athlete, however, has the satisfaction of knowing that her young cycling stars are living the dream at their respective training bases.
“I’ve grown accustomed,” Huggins tells the Sunday Express, “to both of them not being here for many celebrations. I see how hard both Akil and Teniel work to try and accomplish their goals, the sacrifices they make, their dedication to the sport, and also the trials and tribulations they both endure and overcome in order to achieve success. This, as a mother, brings great joy and pleasure to my heart and also reminds me of my athletic days.”
Huggins was a standout athlete, earning long jump bronze for Trinidad and Tobago at the 1990 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Mexico, and representing the country with distinction at both the Pan American Games and Commonwealth Games. She also wore national colours in netball and basketball. Her children, however, chose cycling.
“They were given bicycles as Christmas presents at the tender ages of three and four,” Huggins explains. “They would ride in the roadway as kids living in the countryside. We then moved from the countryside to live in San Fernando. I would take them with me to Skinner Park to see me play netball. However, they would always leave and go to the cycling track. On our way back home they would both say, ‘Mummy can you join us in the cycling club? The man say we can join’.
“I told the coach of the Sonics Cycling Club, Mr Noel Luces, that we don’t have any bikes. He told me just bring them. Since then, they never looked back. Akil and Teniel were both exposed to other sports like track and field, which they never liked. They went for it one day and both returned home unhappy, saying they don’t want to go back. I also used to teach Teniel netball at home and take her to my games, but she was never interested in the sport.”
Teniel focused all her energies on cycling and was rewarded with double Pan Am Games silver last year, a professional contract in Italy and an Olympic berth. The 22-year-old will become the first female cyclist from T&T to compete on the world’s biggest sporting stage.
“My mom is a very strong and courageous woman,” says Teniel. “She has made several sacrifices throughout her life to ensure that my brother and I are comfortable and happy. Euphemia just goes above and beyond for us. It’s only right that I continue to make her proud and happy. She also told me that the Olympic Games was the only competition she never competed in. Maybe this is why I also had it high on my priority list!”
With Teniel in Italy and Akil based in Florida, USA, Huggins does have some Covid-19 concerns.
“As a mother, I do worry sometimes. But I know they are brave and strong, and with the Almighty looking over them they would be good.”
Huggins and her two children share a unique chapter of CAC Games history, combining for five medals at the regional multi-sport event. Following up on mom’s 1990 long jump bronze, Teniel captured four medals at the 2018 Games in Colombia—one gold and three bronze—while Akil bagged men’s omnium bronze.
“My mom is very important in my life and career,” says Akil. “I watched my mom struggle to make ends meet to raise me and my sis, so that gives me an extra push to try to become the best I can be as a sportsman. Most times she is my biggest motivator. It meant a lot to be a CAC medallist alongside my mom and sister. With the little resources that I had, I made it work. And my sis was there to give me the extra push after I crashed in my event.”
Huggins was thrilled to see her babies on the CAC Games podium.
“Their hard work, sacrifices and dedication paid off. Once they are happy, I am happy.”
More history was created with Teniel’s 2019 First Citizens Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year success. Huggins was T&T’s 1989 Sportswoman of the Year.
“When I won this award,” Huggins recalls, “I was out of the country training and preparing for the upcoming Commonwealth Games. My sister, Joycelyn Huggins, collected on my behalf but I was really happy because I always wanted to win that award. Teniel would always say to me, ‘Mummy, one of these years I will win that award’ so while it felt really good when she did, it didn’t come as a shock.”
Teniel is pleased to match her mom’s achievement.
“As a highly competitive person, it was important for me to accomplish as much and also surpass her. For some strange reason, I also eyed the First Citizens Sportswoman of the Year because I knew her name was on the trophy. I felt that would have been pretty cool, especially if my name could be on the same row as hers. We both didn’t realise it was actually a 30-year gap between hers and mine. This made it even more special.”
To Euphemia Huggins, the maker of champions, a special Happy Mother’s Day.