Grenada’s Olympian Kirani James sets high expectations for Tokyo Olympics

Grenada's Kirani James reacts after winning his heat in the Men's 400 Metres at the World Athletics Championships, Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar on Oct. 1, 2019.
REUTERS/Lucy NicholsonAthletics/File

Grenada’s star Olympian and former Alabama track star Kirani James has sets high expectations for the Tokyo Olympics.

According to the Tuscaloosa News, James, 28, has been making history since he was a teenager.

“This summer, James will have the chance to prove that he is as strong as ever following a comeback from an autoimmune condition,” said the News on Monday, noting that, when James took home the gold in the 400 meters at the 2012 London Olympics, “he was immediately granted legend status in the small Caribbean island he calls home.

“The victory made him Grenada’s first and only Olympic medalist, a title he still holds today after winning a silver in Rio in 2016 as well,” it added.

James’s gold-medal time in London was 43.94 seconds, becoming the first runner from outside of the United States to break the 44-second mark.

“It was clear from a young age that James had what it takes to compete at the highest level. As a teenager, James quickly separated himself from the crowd, running a 46.96 in the 400 to clock the fastest time ever by a 14-year-old for that event.

The Tuscaloosa News said James’s success as a runner only grew as he won gold medals at the CARIFTA Games and the Commonwealth Youth Games, along with silver medals in the 400 at the 2007 World Youth and 2008 World Junior Championships.

The next year, James made history as the first athlete to run a 200/400 double at the 2009 World Youth Championships, the News said.

In addition, it said James reigned as the 2010 World Junior Champion.

“However, just a year after an impressive performance at his second Olympic Games, James felt off; he ran the slowest time in a final since he was 16 at the 2017 Drake Relays and took a long time to recover,” said the News, stating that James was soon diagnosed with Graves disease – an autoimmune disorder that leads to a hyperactive thyroid – “and was forced to take more than a year off.”

While recovering, the News said James lost 20 pounds “before he found the right medication to help him manage the condition.”

It said the Olympian made his comeback about 14 months later with a win at the Racers Grand Prix in Jamaica.

“Now, back at full strength, he is ready to compete on the global stage once again,” said the News, noting that, after becoming Grenada’s first Olympic medalist, James received two huge honors from his home country.

He was named Grenada’s 2012 Male Sportsman of the Year and was also honored with the renaming of a road after him, the News said.

It said that, in January, Kirani James Boulevard was revealed in Grenada’s capital, St George’s.

“Through it all, James has proved his longevity as a star sprinter,” the News said. “He is one of just nine athletes to win world championships at the youth, junior and senior level of an athletic event.”

To add to James’s long lists of “firsts,” the former Alabama student was the first 400 runner ever to win world titles at the U18, U20, world championships and Olympic Games, the News said.

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