ST. GEORGE’S: Jubilation erupted across Grenada on Monday night when world champion runner Kirani James earned the tiny island its first ever Olympic medal — gold, in the 400m final in London.
Grenadians in the capital, St. George’s, danced through the streets, jumping up and down and jubilantly waving flags shortly after 19-year-old James crossed the finishing line.
“We were hoping for him to win the race,” said one of James’s cousins who joined the family’s raucous celebration in the west coast fishing village of Gouyave, the runner’s home town, where thousands gathered to watch the race.
But “we just did not think it was possible,” given the high level of competition, the cousin added.
Local journalist Nicole Best said “most of us thought he would have left his mark on the Games,” but “achieving gold went beyond our expectations.”
Similar gatherings were held in the town of Grenville, on the east coast, and the tourism belt of Grand Anse, as well as the National Stadium in the capital.
Grenada has a population of just over 100,000 and the win is raising hopes of a higher profile for the Caribbean nation that relies largely on tourism.
“We expect more success from this and that many more people will be inquiring about Grenada and hopefully will be coming in search of its people,” said Robert Frederick, a banker.
James clocked 43.94 seconds — a new Caribbean record — as he brushed aside the field and stormed to the finish at the Olympic Stadium, calling it a “great race.”
“I just tried to cover my first 200 metres, push on that and hold on for the ending,” he said.
“It was great competition. A great group of guys — a great, talented field,” he added.
The Grenadian forced Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic into second place with a time of 44.46 seconds, while Trinidad and Tobago’s Lalonde Gordon claimed bronze in a personal best 44.52 seconds.
The victory, just weeks before James’ 20th birthday, adds to his capture of the World title at the 2011 championships in Daegu, South Korea.