ST GEORGE’S, Grenada -- It was a partial holiday in Grenada on Tuesday as nationals commemorated the country’s first Olympic medal.
Grenadian Kirani James, 19, won the 400 meters on Monday in 43.94 seconds at the London games.
Prime Minister Tillman Thomas described it as an “historic performance,” which sparked celebrations across Grenada, particularly in James’ hometown of Gouyave, St. John.
“On the occasion of this historic performance, I, after consultation with Governor General Sir Carlyle Glean, declare tomorrow, Tuesday, August 7, 2012 a half holiday,” said Thomas, who was among celebrants who followed the race the race in Gouyave.
In winning the race, James set several new marks for himself and his country.
It was the first time a non-American quarter-miler has run under 44 seconds.
He has also run the fastest 400 ever by any Caribbean sprinter.
The victory also placed Grenada as the smallest country to win an Olympic gold medal.
“You, sir, have taken Grenada to the world and we thank you and honour you. We love you,” Thomas said. “All of Grenada celebrates your spectacular performance.”
James, who began winning international track meets at 14, is now the holder of both the Olympic and World Championship gold medals. He was Grenada’s 2010 and 2011 Male Athlete of the Year.
Because of his athletic prowess and style, Grenadians have nicknamed him “Jaguar”.
A graduate of the Grenada Boys’ Secondary School, James is now studying at the University of Alabama.
Both of Grenada’s two major political parties congratulated him on his Olympic gold medal run, with the ruling National Democratic Congress general secretary suggesting that the national athletic stadium, when refurbished, should be renamed in James’ honour.
"He is more than deserving of such a tribute,” said NDC general secretary Peter David.
Arley Gill, NDC public relations officer, also recommended that a committee should be set up to execute a plan for upgrading and enhancing the Kirani James Boulevard.
The opposition New National Party, in congratulating James, his coaches and family, said the celebration of James’ “historic achievement” should be done in a way “which would make Team Grenada as proud of us as we are of them.”
James, interviewed following his victory Monday, said: “It means a lot. I am so excited.”
He added, “It’s probably crazy at home right now; there is probably a huge party in the streets. I don't think there are any words that can describe the celebration right now.”
The carnival-like celebrations in Gouyave continued well into Tuesday morning. A special celebratory event was planned for Tuesday afternoon.