Thursday, February 7, 2008

Lewis Hamilton receives a hero’s welcome in Grenada

Lewis HamiltonFORMULA one star Lewis Hamilton received a hero's welcome as he was honored at his family's home nation of Grenada.

It was a proud clan affair as the Caribbean island's most famous descendant was joined by his dad and his granddad, both citizens there, as well as his disabled brother, on a different kind of podium.

The fresh-faced 23-year-old was a special guest at the lively celebrations for the 34th anniversary of Grenada's independence from Great Britain.

He made a short but inspirational speech about making dreams a reality.

In the warmth of the Caribbean sun and thousands of adoring locals, it was a world away from the racist incidents that marred a recent training session in Spain.

Until recently, few of the tiny island's 100,000 inhabitants were aware of the rising star of motorsport, whose grandad moved to the UK in the 1950s before returning 20 years later.

Hamilton would go unnoticed when visiting relatives.

But on his first return since almost clinching the world title in his outstanding first season, things could not have been more different.

"Grenadians are very proud of you. Everywhere people are excited about your visit," Prime Minister Keith Mitchell told Hamilton as he greeted him on his arrival at the island's airport.

As crowds gathered in the island's National Stadium - clad in the patriotic colours of green, red and yellow - they made it clear Hamilton was their hero.

Looking dapper as ever in a crisp white shirt and dark jeans, he was mobbed as he arrived with his youthful-looking father Anthony, his brother Nicholas, who suffers from cerebral palsy, and stepmum Linda.

They sat alongside dignitaries in the VIP area of the picturesque stadium, which sits on the island's stunning coast.

Charming as ever, Hamilton smiled, chatted and shook hands with scores of fans who approached the family.

And despite not being a citizen, he was introduced as one of the island's proudest sons two hours into the day-long celebration.

To rapturous applause from the stands, he made his way to the podium at the centre of the pitch with his relatives, his arm tenderly on his teenage brother's shoulder.

He looked humbled and briefly spoke as his beaming dad and granddad Davidson, a local school minibus driver, stood smiling behind him. "It's great being here," he had earlier told fans, before talking about achieving his dreams in motorsport.

Just days ago he was taunted by spectators as he drove in the Circuit of Catalunya, in Barcelona. Some spectators in the crowd had their faces blacked up while others hurled insults such as "black bitch" and "black s***".

But he refused to comment on the incident in his visit to Grenada.

Returning to the island as a superstar, Hamilton had gone full circle.

Some say his innate abilities may come from his granddad, who was known in his youth for tearing around the island's winding roads on a motorcycle.

It was granddad Hamilton who moved to the UK, where he worked on London Underground.

Although he since returned to the island, his son Anthony stayed and married Carmen, who gave birth to Lewis - named after runner Carl Lewis - in Hertfordshire.

The couple split soon after, and after living with his mother he moved in with Anthony and his stepmum Linda aged 10.

After zooming his way through the lower divisions of motorsport he finally landed in Formula One last year as not only the sport's first black driver, but also one of its most exciting.

By Owen Williams, Feb 07 2008 © Copyright 2008 - Showbiz Spy

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