Everybody’s Person of the Year – Olympian Kirani James
Brooklyn, NY – Media outlets generally consider politicians first when evaluating individuals who are eligible to be “Person of the Year.” TIME Magazine, which started the Person of the Year honor, frequently chooses politicians and statespersons.
For 2012, in the Caribbean, the task was easy. There was no Anglophone head of government deserving to be Person of the Year. It was difficult to spot a prime minister with vision, creativity, and the will to enhance Caricom. It was politics as usual.
The next group of Caribbean nationals where it was possible to find a Person of the Year was within the entertainment fraternity. Every year they do more for the region than politicians. Jamaica’s reggae artists such as Beenie Man, members of the Marley family, Beres Hammond and others continue to have successful concerts and attract international audiences. Yet, in 2012, there was no artist who was a cut above the rest or committed to extraordinary humanitarian causes.
Forget about calypso and soca artists! Machel Montano was the only artist worth considering but he too falls far short.
The Caribbean brightest moments in 2012 were during the London Olympic Games when regional Olympians, regardless of island they hailed from, generated support of Caribbean nationals around the world in particular and the global community in general. At the Jamaican Independence Ball in New York City celebrating the 50th anniversary of Jamaica as a nation, Prime Minister Portia Simpson congratulated Trinidad & Tobago, The Bahamas and Grenada for the gold medals their athletes brought home. She was extremely ecstatic.
An Olympian deserves to be The Caribbean Person of the Year for 2012 and some may think it a no-brainer to say it should be EVERYBODY’S Person of the Year for 2008, Usain Bolt.
Today, Usain Bolt, like Muhammad Ali, is highly respected, most admired and very popular around the world. Bolt’s achievement in London is still mesmerizing and indescribable. If this magazine’s Person of the Year were based on the number of gold medals won and magical achievements then Usain Bolt would be our Person of the Year.
There are other factors worth considering and this leads us to Keshorn
Walcott of Trinidad & Tobago and Kirani James of Grenada.
Walcott became the first non-European to win an Olympic Gold Medal in men’s javelin since 1952. It was astounding since it is not a field blacks and the western hemisphere excel in. Walcott became only the second Trinbagonian to win gold in the Olympics.
Given its limited resources, the small nation of Grenada cannot afford to fund training of its athletes and often it’s ordinary citizens who spearhead the effort to send athletes on the world stage to gain experience. Such is the path that Kirani James followed.
Track and field has not been in the blood of Grenada fans when compared to Jamaicans who will climb mountains to support their athletes. For example, during the last four or five years, Grenada has participated in the popular Penn Relays held in Pennsylvania but it is easy to count the few Grenada flags at the Penn Relays. The first year Kirani James entered the Penn Relays an EVERYBODY’S representative met a high level New York-based Grenada government official and asked if he had attended the Penn Relays to support the Grenada contingency and he replied, “What is the Penn Relays?”
The world heard of Kirani James when he won the 400m event at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. He became the youngest world champion ever of this race. A few days later, he repeated his success in Zurich, Switzerland.
Preparing for the London Olympics was a challenge for James. In order not to violate his immigration status as a student in the U.S., he was unable to take time off from school to train whereas American athletes were allowed to curtail school affording them time to prepare for the Games.
The pressure was mounting on James to win gold in London. He was the world’s champion and favorite. Moreover, James had the burden of not disappointing Grenadians. They depended on him to get tiny Grenada its first Olympic medal. Most people may have cracked under this demand. Not James. He easily won the Olympic Gold Medal. In tipping his hat to James, the great Olympian Michael Johnson, who owns the 400m Olympic record, said that James can smash it.
Given all the barriers Kirani James has endured and surmounted; his uplifting comments and conduct off the field plus the prestige he has brought to Grenada and the small islands of the Eastern Caribbean, Kirani James is EVERYBODY’S, the Caribbean-American magazine, Person of the Year.