A virtual Carnival greeted Trinidad and Tobago's 2012 Olympic javelin champion Keshorn Walcott on his arrival yesterday at Piarco International Airport.
Walcott emerged to a king's welcome, with chants of "Toco! Toco! Toco!" as he entered the airport's VIP Lounge, chants that melded with screams of "Keshorn! Keshorn! Keshorn!" before the massive crowd in the atrium below had even laid eyes on the 19-year-old Toco native.
The outpouring easily beat the welcome for the 2006 Soca Warriors after they qualified for T&T's first World Cup, with thousands of supporters either filling the ground floor of the airport, the outer courtyard or the corridors and stairways trying to get a glimpse of Walcott, and cheering every word uttered by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Minister of Sport Anil Roberts as they paid tribute to Trinidad and Tobago's returning athletes.
Even when a downpour hit, it failed to dampen the spirits of hundreds clad in red, white and black, with hundreds of flags, large and small, fluttering vigorously from left to right.
The cheers first erupted from his family and Toco supporters when Walcott finally entered the VIP Lounge, after the athletes' flight from London was delayed by more than an hour.
Along with the technical staff, among them National Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAA) and T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) officials, the athletes that touched down yesterday included teenage sprinter Michelle-Lee Ahye, 4x400m relay runner Machel Cedenio, cyclist Njisane Phillip and Walcott.
Accompanying PM Persad-Bissessar were Community Development Minister Winston "Gypsy" Peters, Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Dookeran, Minister of National Security Jack Warner, Minister of Finance Larry Howai and several other Cabinet Ministers.
Undoubtedly Walcott was the man they all came to see, and the crowd met each announcement made by Persad-Bissessar—including Government's decision to reward Walcott with a house in Federation Park, and $1 million—with lusty applause.
During the celebration, announcements, and even Machel Montano's performance of his Olympic tribute "Going for Gold", Walcott did not seem entirely comfortable with all the attention. From the moment he arrived he was mobbed by family, well-wishers and Ministers waiting to greet him.
A tired Walcott even told the media that despite all the accolades and rewards, he hopes things stay the same for him.
"I don't really know right now (about all the rewards)," the Olympic champion said. "I don't want my life to change, so I'm just going to go on and keep doing what I'm doing."
Shortly after that Walcott was led away to the beginning of a long motorcade in his honour, which would take him all the way to Toco.
"I'm a bit tired," Walcott acknowledged, "but I know everyone is proud of me...I'm proud of myself, so I'll just go and celebrate with everyone."