I was out buying fish today when Ryan Brathwaite won the men's 110m hurdle at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics.
Ryan Brathwaite is a Barbadian. He is 21 years old, the youngest athlete ever to win gold in this event at the IAAF Worlds, and the only Barbadian ever to medal in this meet.
I had been sticking close to the car radio during the day, first for news of Ryan's performance in his semi-final, which he won. Then for news of what time Usain Bolt would clear in his 200m victory (19.19, shaving exactly 11 seconds off both his previous 200m and 100m times to set his second world record of this year's Championships), and then to see if Ryan would medal in the 110m final that afternoon.
Turns out I couldn't have missed it. Because as news came that he had won the event, I simultaneously heard loud whooping and hollering from a man in the opposite car park. He was running back and forth beside his car, yelling "We got it!" and assuring all within earshot that "when he come back [I] going at the airport!" Another man left his job, still in what looked like HAZMAT gear, and ran across the street to get the result from us. A woman who had pulled over to the side of the road to hear the result sped off, alternately grinning and yelling. My sister and I joined our car park friend in his cheering, and for the rest of the day, I felt really happy inside.
The news of Jamaica's dominance in the sprints has been fantastic. We from the Caribbean all feel like we share Usain Bolt, Shelly-ann Fraser and the rest of the team. But to have a Barbadian on that podium; to see the flag being raised highest and to hear the haunting strains of our national anthem; to hear the commentators speak with respect and authority of the island nation of Barbados; and to hear a foreign sportscaster's accent say with excitement "I think the Bajan took it!" - there can be no greater feeling of national pride and fellow feeling with one's countrywomen and men.
Barbados is uplifted today by the performance, the words, the commitment and passion, the existence of Ryan Brathwaite, this young man who improved phenomenally in a very short time, and kept us all focused along with him on this prize. Well done, Obadele, Andrea, Nicholas and all the athletes and coaches before and since who make that blue, yellow and back recognizable today; and well done, Ryan: thank you for giving us something over which to unite once again.