Story highlights

Kyron McMaster wins the British Virgin Islands' first ever Commonwealth medal

McMaster won gold in the men's 400m hurdles

Xavier "Dag" Samuels, McMaster's coach, was killed by Hurricane Irma in 2017

(CNN) —  

About seven months after the British Virgin Islands were ravaged by a pair of hurricanes, Kyron McMaster made history for the tiny Caribbean island when he landed its first Commonwealth Games medal – and it was gold too – Thursday in the 400m hurdles on Australia’s Gold Coast.

One of track and field’s rising stars, McMaster eased to victory in 48.25 seconds, well ahead of Jeffery Gibson of the Bahamas (49.10) and Jamaica’s Jaheel Hyde (49.16).

“I can guarantee they are jumping for joy,” McMaster, 21, said of the residents back home. “Everyone gathered into a big spot to watch this on TV and I can imagine how they are right now.

“For me it is a big deal, what we have been though. This is the first positive of a great future for the British Virgin Islands.”

McMaster
McMaster's mentor and coach, Xavier "Dag" Samuels was killed during the devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma.
PHOTO: SAEED KHAN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

The scenes of celebration are markedly different from what transpired last September, when Hurricane Irma – the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean – ripped through the country.

The wreckage of a plane lies on the roof of a destroyed building in Tortola, British Virgin Islands, in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
The wreckage of a plane lies on the roof of a destroyed building in Tortola, British Virgin Islands, in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
PHOTO: Chris Jackson/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

There was little immediate respite, as Hurricane Maria then slammed the British Virgin Islands two weeks later.

Coach remembered

The path of destruction left 134 dead, including McMaster’s mentor and coach, Xavier “Dag” Samuels.

Eighty percent of buildings were either damaged or destroyed, power was out and 6,000 people – one fifth of the entire population – were left homeless. Tourism – so pivotal to the country’s economy – took a major hit. Three billion dollars was needed to rebuild the island and much of the work is still being done.

One of Samuels’ key words was “guidance” and McMaster has that tattooed on his arm.

Kyron McMaster clears the final hurdle to win the men
Kyron McMaster clears the final hurdle to win the men's 400m hurdles final.
PHOTO: Matt Roberts/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
Kyron McMaster celebrates winning the men
Kyron McMaster celebrates winning the men's 400m hurdles final.
PHOTO: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

“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,” said McMaster.

“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.”

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McMaster recorded the fastest time of 2017 at 47.80 seconds but failed to win a medal at the world championships in London because he was disqualified for a false start.