The curtain may have come down on what has been hailed as the 'greatest ever' Games, but the celebrations are far from over as fans across the globe came out in their thousands to welcome home their 2012 Olympic heroes.

From the Champs-Elysees in Paris to Piarco in the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago, the world's sporting stars were met with incredible scenes as supporters in their home nations flooded airports and city streets to honour their athletes' achievements at the London Games.

Athletes disembarking from their flights from London were showered with petals, mobbed by autograph hunters, and - in the case of one teenage gold medal winner - presented with a new house and a cheque for $155,000.

When javelin thrower Keshorn Walcott was promised the cheque when he landed in Trinidad and Tobago, along with a luxury home and roughly 20,000 square feet of land near his hometown.

His proud home nation is even planning to name a lighthouse and a Caribbean Airlines plane after the 19-year-old champion.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar lavished Walcott with gifts and praise on Monday as thousands of fans dressed in the national colours of red, black and white arrived at Piarco International Airport to greet the young athlete.

Monday was named a national holiday in honour of Walcott, who won the Olympic javelin title with a throw of 277 feet and six inches. His victory represented Trinidad's first Olympic gold in a field event and only its second overall.

The first one was won by Hasley Crawford in the 100 metre sprint in Montreal, 36 years ago.

'On behalf of the people of Trinidad & Tobago, we thank you, Keshorn, and may the Lord continue to bless you,'Persad-Bissessar shouted into a microphone over the chanting crowd.

Walcott, who is from the tiny Trinidadian farming village of Toco, looked slightly stunned by the outpouring of gratitude from his countrymen.

'I was proud to carry the flag of T&T and thanks to everyone for all the support and thanks to Mum and Dad, my brothers and sister,' said Walcott, who was the world junior champion in javelin before his big weekend win at the London Olympics.

Other dignitaries from countries all over the world turned out to greet the returning athletes, including Algeria's sports minister Hachemi Dijar, who was there to greet the country's only medal winner Taoufik Makhloufi when he landed back from the London games. Makhloufi won gold in the men's 1500m final.

Meanwhile Qatar's bronze medal winners received a warm welcome from Shiekh Joann bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the son of the Emir of Qatar.

Nasser al-Attiyah took bronze in the skeet men's final in the shooting at London 2012, while high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim also returned to Qatar decorated with a bronze medal.

Brazilian medal-winners touched down on home soil bearing the Olympic flag from London, making the start of four years of preparations ahead of the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.

Rio mayor Eduardo Paes waved the flag, which is emblazoned with the five Olympic rings, as he and other officials disembarked from their flight back from London.

Mr Paes said it was an 'important moment' for Rio and the country as a whole.

'I see the arrival of this Olympic flag as not the start, but the consolidation of an important process of transformation for the city of Rio de Janeiro,' he said.

'Rio is a city that spent the lion's share of its history, much more time than it should have, looking towards the past. I'm sure that this process of transformation, this turning toward the future, has been consolidated here.'

By Kerry Mcdermott


Experts are divided on the path to future Olympic glory, with one saying New Zealand can't afford to enter an international funding "arms race".

Geoff Dickson, associate dean of AUT's faculty of health and environmental sciences, said the Government's funding freeze for high-performance sport did not mean we could not compete.

"The Australian rowing programme has considerably more resources at its disposal, yet the New Zealand programme is more effective."

He said New Zealand's population meant it was at its upper reaches for medals and it would be a major achievement to maintain its standing.

New Zealand won 13 medals in London, including five golds.

Dr Dickson said it was unrealistic to try to match other countries in terms of funding increases.

He said that as the focus was increasingly on winning medals above all else, "hyper-specialisation" could become a mainstay of sport funding.

"The best example within the context of New Zealand is concentrating on track and field female events.

"And in particular - this is the hyper-specialisation - the female throwing events. Trying to find the next generation of your Beatrice Faumuina and Valerie Adams."

But University of Canterbury business lecturer Ekant Veer said New Zealand needed to increase funding, and not only for the top medal prospects.

"If we took that attitude, then some of our greatest athletes would never have had a chance to hone their sport ... and go on to Olympic greatness," he said.

Sports Minister Murray McCully has said the country's financial situation means sport funding will "flatline" for at least two years.

Sport NZ will decide by the end of next month which sports it will target for help, and decisions on specific funding will be made in December.

Sport NZ chief executive Peter Miskimmin told Radio New Zealand yesterday that this country was one of the few to still be improving on the world high-performance stage.

He said he thought target funding was here to stay.

By Nicholas Jones


The man responsible for shaping Keshorn Walcott into an Olympic gold medallist, Cuban throws coach Ismael Lopez, says there is no limit to the heights the talented teenager can attain.

"His best quality is dedication, so we can achieve anything. Wow. I feel very happy. I'm very proud of Keshorn. I don't have words to describe."

Walcott became only the second Trinidad and Tobago athlete in Olympic history to strike gold, when he won the men's javelin with an 84.58 metres throw, at the Olympic Stadium, here in London, England, on Saturday.

Walcott's winning throw was a 1.75-metre improvement on his pre-Olympic personal best—82.83m. The 84.58m effort is a new Pan American junior (under-20) and national senior record. It lifted Walcott into second spot on the all-time global under-20 list, behind Latvia's Zigismunds Sirmais, the world junior record holder at 84.69m.

Lopez told the Express he was not surprised by Walcott's London 2012 performance.

"For me, I expected the junior world record. We were working at making his first throw relaxed. If the first throw is good, it makes things easier."

As planned, Walcott was relaxed for his first round effort, throwing the javelin 83.51m. In round two, he improved to 84.58m—the throw that would earn T&T its first taste of Olympic gold since Hasely Crawford's men's 100m triumph in 1976.

Dexter Voisin, the T&T track and field manager at London 2012, said that Walcott's triumph could not have been anticipated.

"It was a surprise to anybody. I sat among European coaches and saw amazement in their faces.

"This shows that once you put your mind to something and stick to the game plan, you can achieve anything. Keshorn is a very disciplined guy, takes training very seriously, listens to his coach, and has a strong mind. He's the ideal athlete."

T&T chef de mission, Annette Knott, also praised the 19-year-old Toco thrower.

"Quiet confidence. He works hard, without any fuss."

Walcott has had an arduous but highly rewarding season, striking gold at the Carifta Games, the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Junior Championships, World Junior Championships, and now the Olympic Games.

Lopez said his athlete will now get a well-deserved rest, before beginning preparations for the 2013 season.

"We have to take care of him. Keshorn was invited to two meets in Europe, but he'll go home. For him, the season is finished."

Walcott's main focus in 2013 will be the World Championships, in Moscow, Russia. Hitting the 90-metre mark is also among the thrower's goals for next season.

Lopez said he is looking forward to the continued support of the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago (sportt).

"I'm grateful for the camp in Cuba in April and May that they paid for. It made a big difference in Keshorn's preparations."

He said the pre-Olympic camp in Cardiff, Wales, was beneficial as well.

"It had all the facilities, everything, and played a key part in Keshorn's performance."

While Walcott has a rare gift for hurling the spear, Lopez is convinced there are other potential Olympic champions in T&T waiting to be discovered.

"There are more like him, but something needs to be in place to develop field events. We need facilities. The throwers and jumpers cannot always train at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. Because of football games, the field is not always available. A field events facility is needed."

Lopez said throwing talent abounds in both Toco and Tobago.

"You have to look long-term. Start at 12/13. At that age, you have the time to teach different skills for throws. At age 15/16, the athletes can specialise in a particular throw."

If Lopez has his way, the Walcott win—arguably the biggest surprise of London 2012—will not be a one-off occurrence never to be repeated, but rather, the first of many global field successes for a nation that has built its Olympic reputation on the track.

By Keshorn Walcott


A truly memorable Olympic Games came to an end yesterday here in London, England, with T&T still celebrating its four medals—one gold and three bronze. Keshorn Walcott, in his debut, created the frenzy when he inspired T&T’s second-ever Olympic gold medal with a spectacular performance in the in the Men’s Javelin. Walcott’s tremendous feat later inspired the local 4x100 metres relay team of Richard Thompson, Keston Bledman, Emmanuel Callender and Marc Burns, to third place. It was also a special occasion for another debutant Lalonde Gordon, who picked up two bronze medals, first in the individual 400m, before combining with Jarrin Solomon, Deon Lendore and Ade Alleyne-Forte in the 4x400m relay final. T&T was not the only Caribbean country in a celebratory mode, as triple-gold medallist Usain Bolt led the Jamaican contingent which surely had a lot to cheer about, as well as Kirani James’ Grenada and Chris Brown’s Bahamas. Jamaica’s overall medal tally was 12—four gold, four silver and four bronze while James gave Grenada its first medal at the Games in the 400m, and Bahamas topped the 4x400m, a beautiful ending for the Caribbean.
Their performances caught the attention of former T&T sprinter medallist Ato Boldon, a four-time Olympic medal winner himself. “You cannot doubt that the Caribbean has had an absolutely phenomenal games. A phenomenal games for me is not just Shelly–Ann Fraser-Pryce and Usain Bolt, who you’d expect to come here and do well because they have done well here before,” said Boldon.  “Obviously, Kirani James winning Grenada’s first Olympic medal and its gold, Keshorn Walcott from T&T, just the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen from a T&T national. “Lalonde Gordon’s bronze in the 400m was special. T&T relays, both getting third and Jamaica world’s record. Overall it was phenomenal performance.” Despite being pleased with the achievements of the youngsters, Boldon called on each country to start preparing now for the future. “To come to your first Olympic Games as a teenager and win a medal—specifically T&T, we have a bad habit of not making things that are really great in our sporting past be that catalyst to make things be better. “In both T&T and Grenada, it would really be a dis-service to Keshorn and Kirani, if 10, 15 or 20 years from now you can’t point back and say 10 or 15 years ago when that happen we did ‘x’ and that is why we have three or four medallists now.”
Boldon said it was obvious eveyone would want to celebrate this great achievement. “My concern, (is that) it is not a reason to exhale.” He encouraged the other Caribbean heads to follow in the footsteps of Jamaica. “Jamaica never takes their foot off the gas. If Jamaica came home from London with 20 medals, they will be trying to figure out how to get 25. I would like to see the powers that be, the government, get serious about Olympic athletes.” At the closing ceremony last night, George Bovell carried the T&T flag. Bovell, who made his fourth appearance at the Games, competed in the final of the 50 metre freestyle event and finished seventh. He represented T&T at the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics. At the 2004 edition, he won a bronze medal in the men's 200 Individual medley (IM). It was also the first-ever Olympic swimming medal for the country, and T&T's only medal from the 2004 Olympics. Bovell also carried the T&T flag at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Final results

Cycling: Njisane Phillip (Sprint - 4th), (Keirin - 7th)
Sailing: Andrew Lewis (Laser event – 45th)
Swimming: George Bovell (50m free – 7th)
Shooting: Roger Daniel (10m air pistol – 36th; 50m pistol – 35th)
Boxing: Carlos Suarez (Light flyweight, loses to Ferhat Pehlivan, 16-6 First round)
Track and Field Men

400m: Lalonde Gordon (Bronze); Deon Lendore (5th first round)
4x400m Relay: L Gordon, D Lendore J Solomon, A Alleyne-Forte (Bronze)
100m: Richard Thompson (7th final); Keston Bledman (4th, out in semis); Rondell Sorillo ( 7th semis)
200m: Rondel Sorillo (5th first round)
4x100m Relay: R Thompson, K Bledman Marc Burns, Emmanuel Callender  (Bronze)
110m Hurdles: Wayne Davis (6th semis); Mikel Thomas (5th first round)
400m Hurdles: Jehue Gordon (6th final )
Javelin: Keshorn Walcott (Gold)

100m: Kelly-Ann Baptiste (6th); Semoy Hackett (5th semis); Michelle Lee Ahye (8th semis)
200m: S Hackett (8th  final); K Selvon (5th semis)
400m Hurdles: Janeil Bellille (5th first round)
4x100m Relay: K Baptiste, K Selvon, ML Ahye, S Hackett (Did not finish final)
Shot Put: Cleopatra Borel (13th )
Triple Jump: Ayanna Alexander (14th)
By Rachael Thompson-King

The men's javelin gold won by Keshorn Walcott at the Olympic Games, here in London, England, combined with the three bronze medals secured on the track, earned Trinidad and Tobago joint 47th spot on the medal table, with Uzbekistan.

The four-medal haul was the largest for T&T in Olympic history. The country's success, however, cannot be measured only in precious metal.

There were 12 top-eight finishes for T&T at London 2012.

Walcott led the way with his golden shocker. Lalonde Gordon's men's 400 metres bronze was also a surprise.

Keston Bledman, Marc Burns, Emmanuel Callender and Richard "Torpedo" Thompson combined for bronze in the men's 4x100m. And there was bronze as well for Gordon, Jarrin Solomon, Ade Alleyne-Forte and Deon Lendore in the 4x400m.

Cyclist Njisane Phillip just missed out on a trip to the podium, finishing fourth in the men's sprint. He also competed in the keirin, copping seventh spot.

Kelly-Ann Baptiste was sixth in the women's 100m final—the best ever Olympic placing for a female athlete from T&T. Jehue Gordon got to the men's 400m hurdles final, the 20-year-old athlete finishing sixth in the championship race. And Thompson was seventh fastest in the men's 100m dash.

In the pool, George Bovell touched the wall seventh in the men's 50m freestyle final. Yesterday, the 29-year-old swimmer capped off his fourth Olympic Games campaign by carrying the T&T flag at the closing ceremony, at the Olympic Stadium.

Semoy Hackett finished eighth in the women's 200m. And in the women's 4x100m, Michelle-Lee Ahye, Baptiste, Kai Selvon and Hackett progressed from the qualifying round, but were non-finishers in the final, a baton bungle halting their medal bid.

Chef de mission Annette Knott said that the strong showing here in London was the dawn of a new era in T&T sport.

"We have stepped up to another level. What we need to do now is take it to the next level, where we can turn these placings into medals."

Knott told the Express there was uneasiness in the T&T camp during the London Games.

"When we started, we speculated where we would get the medals. There was always hope in the relays, and we were also looking towards George and Njisane.

"But we were getting only finalists," she continued, "and not medals. While there was still confidence in the camp, there was some anxiety, especially with the comments on Twitter and Facebook."

Things changed last Monday, after the men's one-lap final.

"Once Lalonde medalled, there was more hope that anything can happen."

Knott said the T&T Olympic team was a unified bunch.

"There were no cliques. The pre-Games camp (in Wales) really made a difference with team unity. We were one big family."

The chef de mission said that while Jamaica emerged as the top English-speaking nation at the Games--finishing 18th on the medal table with four gold medals, four silver and four bronze—T&T's all-round performance is worthy of commendation.

"We sometimes sell ourselves short. We have people in many events, and there has been a steady progression. We have finalists not only on the track, but we're doing well in cycling and swimming as well. All-round, I'd say we're ahead of the Caribbean.

"I'm very proud to manage this team," Knott ended. "There's a great feel good factor."

By Kwame Laurence