ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada, Wednesday August 31, 2011 – Eighteen-year-old Kirani James is now the toast of Grenada and will be the recipient of rewards on his return home, after becoming the youngest male athlete in history to win gold in the 400 metre race at International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) level.
Yesterday was declared “National Colours Day” in Grenada by Prime Minister Tillman Thomas after James outran his competitors to claim the gold medal in a personal best time of 44.60 seconds at the IAAF World Championship in Daegu, South Korea.
James, who turns 19 tomorrow, was a student at the University of Alabama until recently deciding to become a professional athlete.
Commenting on his victory after the race, James said: “It’s a great feeling, but it’s great just being here representing my country.’’
Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt of the United States, who crossed the finish line 0.03 seconds behind James, described the Grenadian as “a great athlete.’’
Celebrations erupted in Grenadian communities in the Diaspora and at home, including in James’ hometown of Gouyave, St. John, immediately after the victory. The celebrants included Prime Minister Tillman Thomas who congratulated James by phone: “You have made all of Grenada proud…We know your talent and we are looking forward to greater things,” he told the star athlete.
The Grenada Government and the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) described James, as a “great Grenadian”.
Tribute was also paid to Rondell Bartholomew, another Grenadian who placed sixth in the race.
“Grenada owes a ton of gratitude to these two young men. It was a momentous occasion on Tuesday watching our small nation represented by two athletes in the final of World Championship 400 meters,” said Senator Arley Gill, Public Relations Officer of the ruling NDC.
In a national address last night, Prime Minister Thomas said Bartholomew and James demonstrated “tremendous heart, motivation and character”.
“In the case of Kirani, the strength and determination displayed to achieve his victory was exemplary. He demonstrated the true Grenadian spirit of tenacity, endurance and will. They have made us extremely proud. They have demonstrated in a very real way, what is necessary for national achievement at the world level. This is the standard and performance levels that all Grenadians should aspire toward,” he added.
Thomas said their hard work and outstanding performance would be rewarded.
“In keeping with our new sporting policy, which speaks to the appropriate recognition and rewarding of our sporting icons, your government will shortly be taking and announcing tangible actions in this regard,” he said.
“At the appropriate time, on the return of our athletes we will be hosting a national celebratory event.”
Prior to James, the best Grenadian in international track was Alleyne Francique. He was a winner and record holder at the World Indoor Championship.