GOLD COAST, Australia (Reuters) - Six months after Hurricane Irma devastated the British Virgin Islands and killed his coach, Kyron McMaster brought some well-needed joy to the tiny nation by winning its first Commonwealth Games medal in the 400 metres hurdles on Thursday.
The 21-year-old said he carried coach Xavier “Dag” Samuels with him as he stormed to victory in 48.25 seconds at the Carrara Stadium to confirm his status as the best young talent in the world in the event.
“Tonight the gold meant a lot to the country, but I did what my coach would have wanted me to, go out there and run my race,” he said.
“He’s with me everywhere I go with the band and the tattoo on my arm. So today I came out here and had fun like he always would also tell me before my race. Enjoy the moment, don’t pressure yourself in the race.”
The band on his arm and the tattoo bore the word “guidance”, the catchphrase Samuels would repeat at the end of every discussion in their seven years together.
McMaster is by no means an unknown quantity in 400m hurdles having run three of the four best times in the world last year, including the only one under 48 seconds (47.8).
A victory at the lucrative Zurich Diamond League made up in part for his disappointment at being disqualified at the world championships in London for stepping out of his lane.
“I was upset about that, but I understood the reason, it wasn’t my time and I just kept positive and moved on from there,” he said.
McMaster said he was still getting used to his new coach Lennox Graham but was excited about what they might achieve together.
“He’s been a great help to me, he understood me, he learned me,” he said of the Clemson University-based coach.
McMaster’s Zurich triumph came just a few days before Hurricane Irma struck his home nation, an experience that the hurdler believes taught him a valuable lesson about not taking anything for granted.
“For me to be in stuff like that, and then my coach, for me to come out here and do this today, it shows a lot,” he said.
“Every opportunity you have to go out there like it’s your last.”
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Toby Davis