By Arley Gill
Hearty congratulations to Sir Kirani James! The greatest Grenadian athlete to ever live.
Hearty congratulations, as well, to our Bralon Taplin on making the final in the 400 meters at the Rio Olympics. A great performance and a remarkable feat.
In my youth I always thought that an Olympic medal could never be achieved by a Grenadian. The reason for my thinking back then? We were just too poor and too small as a Nation. Suddenly, Alleyne Francique changed that perspective.
Francique, born and raised in St Andrew and now the US-based coach of Taplin, won the 400 meter World Indoor Championship in 2004 and 2006. And, at the 2004 Olympics in Greece, he came within a whisker of a medal in the 400; he finished fourth in 44.66 seconds.
Francique’s exploits on the international track and field circuit gave hope that one day, we – as small and poor as we are as a Nation – can achieve big time in world sports. He was like the Martin Luther King of Grenada athletics.
Following Francique, then came a young man from the west-coast Parish of St John. His name – Kirani Zeno James. Like Barack Obama, a Black man who has twice won the presidency of the United States, Kirani showed us, in 2012 in London, that impossible dreams can be a reality. He won the 400 Olympic gold in London. Yes, we can!
Kirani, after the torch was passed from Francique to him, lifted our hopes, our aspirations, and our pride as a people and as a Nation comprising the tri-islands of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. He made us all believers; believing that we must not only aspire – but also achieve – gold, all the time. So that, when in Rio last Sunday he won a silver medal, some felt disappointed.
But, there is no doubt that Kirani did his best at the Rio final; he ran well during the preliminary and semifinal rounds. And, he ran an excellent final; his time – 43.76 seconds – would have won him the gold in any other race; however, it was not to be last Sunday.
Kirani’s competitor and the eventual gold medal winner, South African Wayde Van Niekerk, was a deserving champion, smashing the world record with a new mark of 43.03 seconds. The truth is, just before the race I told my friends Kirani would break the record. Little did I know it would have – but, unfortunately, it just wasn’t done by Kirani, who possesses the ability to do what Van Niekerk did.
Bralon Taplin represented himself, family and Grenada well. For an island our size, to have two finalists in an Olympic event, is surely one of the wonders of the world. One witnessed the determination and will of Taplin to make the final; he gave his all in the semifinals. Oh, what a champion!
And, in honour of our only Olympic medalist, we are going to have the Kirani James Stadium. Renaming the stadium was never a case of if; it always was a matter of when. Therefore, I was bit annoyed with all the debate around the issue. The current Grenada Prime Minister is, first and foremost, a former national sportsman and an avid sports fan, and the most successful politician Grenada has ever produced. I knew the moment of renaming the stadium would not pass him by.
As for Kirani, the University of Alabama student who turns 24 on September 1, he still has at least two Olympic Games left in him. I don’t think he will be hanging up his boots anytime soon. He will continue bringing us great joy and he will have more great victories in the future. I have no doubts about that. I pray for his good health and well being.
Kirani is well loved by every Grenadian regardless of class, race, or political affiliation. He knows that as well. Hence, we must pay him the ultimate respect by keeping his name above party political interest or town and country squabble. He is our gift to the world. Let us elevate his name. Look at the humility and class he displays, congratulating and showing love to all his competitors, including the one who defeated him. Let us return the respect he shows to others. It is a worthy example for this, and future generations of Grenada children, to adopt.
We also must do something for Bralon. He did us proud. And, in addition, let us make Alleyne Francique feel appreciated. He continues to serve his country as a coach.
As a whole, Grenada must be commended for fielding a solid Olympic team that also included 400 meter female athlete Kanika Beckles; swimmers Corey Ollivierre and Oreoluwa Cherebin; and decathletes Kurt Felix and Lindon Victor, his brother. Kudos to all, especially the flag-bearer and lone medalist, Kirani James.
I have no doubt that once the Queen continues to be Head of State, Kirani will be knighted. It is with that confidence that I hail, Sir Kirani!