PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC):
Trinidad and Tobago, basking in the glory of its first Olympic gold medal for 36 years, has showered teenaged javelin champion Keshorn Walcott with a number of gifts, including a million dollars in cash and TT$2.5 million (US$390,000) home in a high-end residential area.
The 19-year-old Walcott returned home yesterday with the 10-member contingent which earned a record four medals overall at the just-concluded London Olympics. It was the best ever haul in the country's history.
Walcott's achievement headlined T&T's performance, however, as he pulled off a stunning upset to become the first athlete from the English-speaking Caribbean to win gold in a javelin event and the first in 60 years from the Western Hemisphere.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar, addressing thousands of nationals who gathered at the Piarco International Airport to welcome home the athletes, said the gifts were for "bringing pride and recognition to the nation of Trinidad and Tobago".
In addition to the luxury home, Walcott will also be given 20,000 square feet in his home village of Toco, south of the capital.
Bissessar said that a housing project called "The Keshorn Walcott Housing Development" will be also be established in the area providing housing and employment to residents of Toco.
"A Caribbean Airlines aircraft will be commissioned to bear the proud name of Keshorn Walcott. The lighthouse a historical site, will now be known as the Keshorn Walcott Lighthouse standing as a beacon to guide us all towards what it takes to get to our dreams," she said, adding that the Olympian would also receive one million dollars "to be invested as he so desires".
She said Walcott, the youngest-ever gold medal winner of the javelin in Olympic history, will also be awarded a scholarship to the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) "to further his studies in his chosen field" while his coach Lopez will be placed in charge of an elite throws programme at UTT where all future talent, including Keshorn, can be developed in field events.
"Keshorn, each of these rewards honour you, there is nothing greater than the glory you have brought to this nation and no greater expression ever than the pride and gratitude every citizen feels," she told the crowd that chanted the name of the latest sporting hero from the twin island republic.
In an emotional brief response, Walcott said, "I went out there and did my best."
He praised God, his coach, manager and everyone for his success.
"I would like to say thanks to everybody who supported me," he added.
The prime minister said that gifts for the other Olympians would be announced later.
The men's sprint relay team took bronze after Canada were disqualified, while the distance relay team and Lalonde Gordon in the 400 metres also came away with bronze.
Walcott's achievement represented T&T's second-ever Olympic gold medal behind the legendary Hasely Crawford who won the 100 metres at the 1976 Montreal Games.
Also, yesterday was a public holiday to celebrate the achievement of local Olympians.