LONDON (Reuters) - Grenada’s Kirani James, the Olympic 400 metres champion and his Caribbean nation’s first ever medallist, cannot wait to get home to enjoy the celebrations and his mother’s cooking.
Professional commitments in the lucrative Diamond League and the teenager’s college work will delay him from sharing the victory with Grenada’s 110,000 citizens.
“After I won the medal there was a huge street party after, right afterwards. I saw a couple of videos, a couple of pictures. I mean the streets were packed,” a humble James said.
Prime Minister Tillman Thomas gave Grenada the afternoon off on Tuesday, declaring it a national holiday after James won gold with a time of 43.94 seconds, a new national record.
“As far as me being home, I‘m not quite sure.... I‘m going to be home for Christmas though for sure,” James told a news conference, adding that the government may be setting up a celebration for all his fellow Olympians.
James, just shy of his 20th birthday, studies undergraduate business at the University of Alabama. A professional, he does not run for the school but is trained by its former coach and 1976 Olympic 4x100 metres relay gold medallist Harvey Glance.
Glance said James was still very young and with work can run faster, even though his left foot flares out so much that initially he could not believe the Grenadian could run as well as he does.
“He (James) said it was a family trait. I took that into consideration. I didn’t try to change that. The bottom line was I was watching the results,” said Glance.
James’s quick recovery after he plants his foot put Glance’s mind to rest over the flawed technique.
“It could get better but it could make me worse. Why take that risk? I‘m already doing some great things. It is what it is,” said James.
He won gold in an Olympic 400 metres final which did not feature an American, more evidence the United States is losing its grip on sprinting to Caribbean nations who currently dominate.
Usain Bolt, the Olympic 100 metres champion, hails from Jamaica as does silver medallist and his training partner Yohan Blake. Fellow Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce retained her women’s 100m crown in London.
James entered the games the reigning world 400m champion and hopes to inspire his nation’s youth, even if he cannot get the quiet time he seeks with his family and friends.
“I mean, even though it is not quiet and people come knocking on my door at 6 o’clock in the morning, I mean it is something I really have to embrace,” he said.
“Because, you know it’s my people and you know my job is to make them proud. As long as I do that, I‘m happy with that.”
For now, though, James spends his time studying, training, playing video games and cooking, though he still needs his mum’s advice when it comes to his favourite dishes.
“I cook, but it turns out bad, so I’ll have to be calling mom home and say what did you do? Rice, curry chicken, stew chicken, macaroni pie. I would just rather cook what she does, but for some reason it doesn’t come out the same way as mom.”
Editing by Ed Osmond