Grenadians celebrated with a public holiday the small Caribbean island’s first ever Olympic Gold medal when 19-year-old Kirani James (The Jaguar) won the 400 meters men’s at the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London on Monday, Aug. 6.
There was jubilation in the streets of Grenada, especially in James’ home village, Gouyave from where Prime Minister Tillman Thomas congratulated him in London after he accomplished the remarkable feat.
Prime Minister Thomas said James’ victory was an inspiration to the country.
“He is a real good role model for our young people. He’s very disciplined, very organized and very focused,” Thomas told reporters.
PM Thomas gave Grenadians a half day holiday on Tuesday.
James, already the world champion became the first non-U.S. athlete to run the distance in under 44 seconds. His time of 43.94 seconds is the fastest ever by a Caribbean athlete in the 400 meters.
“I am very proud for my country and everyone who is affiliated to my country and me. Words can’t explain,” he told reporters in London after his victory.
Council Member Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn), the first person of Grenadian descent to be elected to the New York City Council in a release stated, “In just 43.94 seconds, Kirani James changed Grenada and its people forever. Not only has he distinguished himself on the track, but the humanity he displayed off it gave us all reason to cheer. We began to dream of what was possible with his historic performance last year in South Korea, and today our shared dream is his reality. Olympic gold will inspire a generation of Grenadians and Grenadian-Americans to seize onto their potential and achieve their own personal victories.
“I congratulate all of our Olympic competitors, including local stars like Lia Neal and groundbreaking champions like Gabby Douglas. This particular moment is a great and historic one for Kirani James and Grenada, for which my heart beats with pride.”
Last year, at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, James finished first and won the first medal of any kind for Grenada at track and field’s world championships.
In the same event, 23-year-old Lalonde Gordon, who ran third in the event became the second athlete from Trinidad and Tobago to earn an Olympic medal in the 400 meters.
Gordon got home in 44.52 seconds in the men’s one-lap final to secure bronze, joining l964 silver medalist Wendell Mottley.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bisessar also sent a congratulatory message to Gordon saying his achievement had brought glory and pride to Trinidad and Tobago with his medal-winning performance.
“As a small twin-island state, we have once again made out mark on the world stage with excellence in the international sporting arena,” Persad-Bissessar, who was in Jamaica attending the island’s 50th anniversary celebration said.
Congratulations also poured in from National Security Minister Jack Warner, who is acting as Prime Minister Jack Warner and is also acting Sports Minister, saying Gordon’s accomplishment is a shining example to all the hard work and dedication has its rewards and it is my hope that this win will be an inspiration to our youths who are in need of positive role models.