Grenadian Kirani James won Grenada’s first Olympic gold medal, breaking USA’s hold on 400m. Andy Bull reports for The Guardian:
Until Monday night Kirani James was a superstar in the making. As of now he is made. James, only 19 years old, won the Olympic 400m in 43.94sec. It made him the first athlete from outside the USA to break the 44-second barrier and, more importantly, it won Grenada’s first ever Olympic medal. James said that right now his home country, which has a population of 110,000, would just be “one huge street party, everyone getting merry and having a good time”.
James was already the world champion but he won that title in 44.60sec. In comparison this felt like the kind of breakthrough performance that his coach, Harvey Glance, had been talking about when he said James was “a freak of nature” who was capable of beating Michael Johnson’s world record of 43.18sec. “When Michael broke his record he must have been 26 or 27 years old,” Glance said. “Kirani’s only going to get faster and stronger. He really wants to put his country on the map. We want to rewrite history.”
If James is going to do that, he will have to battle Luguelin Santos all the way. Santos, who is a year younger and from Dominica [sic; Santos is from the Dominican Republic], won silver in 44.46sec. “When you are young you don’t have anything to lose but you have so much to gain,” James said, explaining how two teenagers had come to be top of the podium.
Santos finished yards behind James, who came round the final bend “like a train”, as the stadium announcer put it. A Japanese bullet train, perhaps, certainly not a National Rail service. James, leaning forward as though he was running into a stiff wind, pulled away from the field in the final 100m, just as Johnson once did and as Usain Bolt still does. James has set all manner of records in the 200m as a youth and talk soon turned to whether he would fancy returning to that distance to match up with Bolt. “That’s for the future,” he said. “Right now I’m concentrating on the 400m.”
The gap between James and Santos will shrink over time. The two of them have similar sorts of backgrounds. Trinidad & Tobago’s Lalonde Gordon took the bronze. Athletics fans should notice something a little odd about that top three. It was the first time since 1920 that an athlete from the USA had not won an Olympic medal in the 400m.
In James and Santos the sport has two new heroes, ones worth celebrating.
For full article, see http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2012/aug/06/london-2012-400m-kirani-james?newsfeed=true