On Sunday the world watched as Jamaican-born sprinters Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake competed for gold and the title of fastest man in the world, with Bolt winning after running an Olympic record time of 9.63 seconds. Today also marks the 50th anniversary of Jamaica's independence. Celebrations are popping up throughout New York, and Kingston, Jamaica was enveloped by cheers following Bolt's victory. Jamaicans across the world sounded off on both the anniversary and Bolt's performance.
Kevin Hilton is a Jamaican-born New Yorker and the public relations manager for Spur Tree Lounge, a Jamaican bar in Manhattan. Today, he's feeling "wonderful, excited, and still on the adrenaline high from yesterday." He talks about Bolt's big win, his native country's birthday, and what the two mean for Jamaicans. The irony of Bolt winning a gold medal in the capital of the nation from which Jamaica won its independence is not lost on Hilton.
"It's just an amazing feeling. It's almost like a rebirthing again," Hilton says. "That's where we got our independence originally, [and] to do it on their stage has definitely a little, special twist to it." He says that any bitterness towards the United Kingdom has faded.
"For us, it's just a matter of statement," he says. "'Here we are, world — listen to us. Here we are, take note of us.'"
Hilton believes that Bolt's gold medal performance will unify the country, including the political sphere. "All barriers are broken down," he says. "That's where we are truly brought back to our core of 'out of many people, we are truly one, we're a family.'" Hilton also predicts that Jamaica will benefit economically from the spotlight that Bolt's international presence brings upon his home country.
"This is a great platform to start moving to the next level," Hilton says. "We bring a lot to the table in a lot of different arenas, and this is definitely the arena to showcase one aspect of our culture that's been very near and dear to us."