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Rapport Building and Communicating Well-being

Coach Plays Pivotal Role in Helping Former Refugee Compete for Team England at Commonwealth Games

Coach Shyam Chavda has been weightlifter Cyrille Tchatchet II’s rock, helping him through a turbulent period of his life to gain British citizenship in time to compete for Team England at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham

High quality coach-athlete relationships lie at the heart of effective coaching.

Forging a strong mutual connection can have a hugely transformative effect on the development journeys of both athlete and coach. 

As American college basketball coach Mike Krzyewski put it: two is better than one if two can act as one.

And the uplifting story of Cyrille Tchatchet II’s participation at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this week is the perfect advert for what can be achieved when a coach invests the time, energy and nurturing support to build a thriving coach-athlete relationship.

Long-time coach Shyam Chavda has been on an incredible journey with his protégé. 

Despite missing out on a medal lifting for Team England in the men’s 96kg category after an ill-timed bout of cramp meant he was unable to complete a clean and jerk lift – his 158kg snatch lift had put him in the silver medal position – he is still a winner in the eyes of his coach and the rest of the England team after overcoming personal turmoil just to be there.

Chavda – who is a Sports Technical Tutor at Middlesex University – made Cyrille’s dream of competing for Team England possible by playing a pivotal role in helping him seek asylum and ultimately gain British citizenship.

Eight years ago, Cyrille made the life-changing decision not to return to Cameroon after competing for his home country in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.  

Not feeling it would be safe to go home, Cyrille lived rough on the streets of Brighton and tackled depression and suicidal thoughts before turning his life around and starting a mental health nursing degree at Middlesex University. 

With Shyam’s help and guidance, the pair embarked on a lengthy battle to seek British citizenship for Cyrille – who is now a professional nurse.  

Shyam said: “Sport is meant to be about equality and fair play and since seeking asylum, I wanted Cyrille to have the same opportunities as any high performing athlete.

“Nationally, we started having good success together, winning national titles and setting multiple British records, with his performances being of an international standard.  

“I wanted to get him representation on the international stage, starting with the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, but because he didn’t have a passport, he wasn’t eligible for any international competitions. Given that sport should be about inclusivity and opportunity, I felt there was injustice.” 

With support from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), British Weightlifting and the United Nations (UN), Cyrille had his biggest breakthrough in 2020, when he represented the Refugee Olympic Team in Tokyo 2020, with Shyam by his side.  

“Cyrille was there because he deserved to be there. It was my number one career highlight. To go to the Olympic games as a coach is often considered the pinnacle of coaching in weightlifting. Only a small percentage of the coaching community would get the opportunity to do that in their lifetime and I feel privileged to belong to that group.  

“I have wanted to work in elite sport since the age of 16 so to live it out was amazing.” 

It is every coach’s responsibility to have a duty to care for their athlete, which involves looking after their safety, well-being and welfare.

Shyam has gone above and beyond with the wraparound care he has shown Cyrille. After their success in Tokyo, he kept pushing to get Cyrille’s British nationality secured so that he was eligible to compete for Team England in Birmingham. 

Shyam, who in addition to his teaching and coaching roles is also Lead Performance Scientist at British Weightlifting, said:

It was relentless, but we had to strike while the iron was hot and keep pushing straight after Tokyo. We managed to get the paperwork through the home office in time so he could be eligible to compete for England.” 

This news came in January this year, after which Shyam continued to coach Cyrille and oversee his programming in the run up to the Games, setting new national records in the process. 

Watching Cyrille at the National Exhibition Centre in Solihull on his Commonwealth Games debut for England was a poignant occasion for Shyam, with Team England coach Stuart Martin telling Olympics.com that, despite failing to come home with a medal, Cyrille had made a massive contribution to the success of the team. 

“For him to miss out on a silver medal realistically, he was very capable of that, is absolutely gutting. It's just bad luck.

“The team are proud of him. Cyrille has helped us win all the medals we've won so far. His character is fantastic. He's supportive; he’s a real key member of the team.”

Related Resources

  • Understanding the Coach-Athlete Relationship

  • Why Mastering The Coach-Athlete Relationship is Important

  • How to Improve Coach Well-being: Connect with Others


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