Kirani James arrives in Grenada to big welcome

Friday, August 31, 2012

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ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada (AP) — A few thousand revelers wearing Grenada's red, green and yellow flag crowded outside the tiny Caribbean island's airport Thursday night to welcome back a young athlete who won the nation's first Olympic medal.

Kirani James arrived on a jet chartered by the government. Crews quickly rolled out a red carpet for the 400-meter champ. Decked out in a green blazer, the 19-year-old runner nicknamed "The Jaguar" hugged his parents and shook hands with politicians and dignitaries on the tarmac before mingling with the crowd of excited fans outside.

"It's very humbling to see everybody here. I'm just looking forward to a weekend of celebration," James said.

Tillman Thomas, prime minister of the nation of just over 100,000, told James that his return was a "very proud moment for all of us as Grenadians."

At the London Olympics, James gave Grenada its first Olympic medal when he took the lead at the halfway point and ran hard to the finish. He won in 43.94 seconds.

James became the first non-U.S. athlete to run the 400 in less than 44 seconds, and added the Olympic title to his world championship gold. He also was the first non-U.S. winner of the race since the 1980 Games in Moscow.

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