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Keshorn beacon of light—Kamla
A $2.5 million Federation Park, St James, home; 20,000 square feet of land in Toco; $1 million cash and a Toco Housing Development Corporation (HDC) housing development named in his honour. Those were some of the rewards bestowed upon 19-year-old Olympic gold medallist Keshorn Walcott, yesterday upon his return to Trinidad after his participation in the 2012 London Olympics which ended on Sunday. The gifts were announced by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar as she addressed thousands of citizens who packed the atrium at Piarco International Airport to welcome Walcott and several members of the national contingent home. Persad-Bissessar said: “Keshorn will shine as a beacon of light to the young people of the nation.” She was flanked by Walcott on her right and T&T’s first Olympic gold medalist, Hasely Crawford, on the left, and revealed Government’s rewards for the 19-year-old Toco resident, who entered the record books on Saturday when he became the youngest Olympic javelin champion in history.
On Saturday, in front of a capacity crowd at London’s Olympic Stadium, Walcott’s 84.58 metres javelin toss edged his closest rival, Ukrainian Oleksandr Pyatnytsya. Persad-Bissessar said that as a result of Walcott’s achievement the Toco lighthouse — a landmark in the community and in T&T — would be renamed the Keshorn Walcott Toco Lighthouse. A Caribbean Airline Boeing 737 aircraft would also be named in his honour, Persad- Bissessar said. The aircraft is expected to be repainted by the end of this week. This has not been the first time an aircraft has been named after a local athlete. A similar accolade was bestowed upon Crawford following his gold medal triumph at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Canada. Persad-Bissessar also said a HDC development will be constructed in the Toco area which would provide housing and employment for residents. Construction of the development, which will comprise of more than 100 units, is expected to begin by as early as next January after the completion of a tendering process and other preparatory works. Walcott, a student, also will be given a scholarship to the University of Trinidad and Tobago, where he will participate in the university’s elite sporting programme.
Yesterday’s festivities started well before 6 am for most of the attendees who arrived early to catch a glimpse of Walcott and several of other local Olympic athletes, who arrived on the same flight. They were heeding the call of Persad- Bissessar who urged citizens to attend yesterday’s ceremony to welcome home Walcott and the other Olympians, including cyclist Njisane Phillip. Persad-Bissessar also announced on Sunday night she had advised acting President Timothy Hamel-Smith to declare yesterday a public holiday. Scores of Walcott’s family members and neighbours arrived at the airport from Toco, via four chartered Public Transportation Service Corporation (PTSC) buses. The vocal fans had to wait patiently after they learned that the athletes’ flight, which was originally scheduled to land at 9.45 am, was delayed by an hour. The fans, who were dressed in the national colours, were thoroughly entertained by several tassa, steelpan groups and rhythm sections who repeatedly belted out various local compositions, much to their delight. Thousands of miniature T&T flags were distributed by the organisers of yesterday’s welcome programme.
Shortly after 11 am, Walcott greeted the crowd from the balcony of the atrium. Deafening screams of joy echoed throughout the airport, signalling the arrival of the 19-year-old, described by many as an inspiration to the nation. With a toothy grin, Walcott waved to his adoring fans as he displayed the glistening Olympic gold medal that hung from his neck. In his brief address to the crowd, Walcott thanked his parents and two brothers that stood proudly at his side. “Thanks for the support T&T... I did my best,” a soft-spoken Walcott said. Several Government Ministers who were present also extended congratulations to Walcott. Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, in an interview, described Walcott as the ideal role model for the youths of T&T.
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