'It's been a rollercoaster' - James 'grateful' for bronze after battle with Graves disease, death of mother

By Sports Desk August 07, 2021

Grenadian 400m bronze medallist, Kirani James, has expressed gratitude to be back on the Olympic podium, after a difficult four years, which included being diagnosed with a debilitating disease and the passing of his mother.

As a 19-year-old James, was the toast of the Caribbean after claiming 400m gold at the 2012 London Games, four years later he battled to silver behind South African Wayde van Niekerk who won the event in a blistering world record time.

Shortly after, however, the athlete’s fortunes took a drastic turn for the worst, and, in an event as brutal and as grueling as the 400m, the odds were stacked against the athlete getting a third Olympic medal in Tokyo.  He defied them anyway.

In 2017, James had found himself struggling with fatigue and weight loss.  He dropped around 20 pounds before being diagnosed with the thyroid condition known as Graves’ disease.  Just two years later, he faced perhaps even more difficult circumstances after his mother Pamela James passed away following a lengthy battle with a terminal disease.

At the 2019 World Championship James had fought his way back to competition weight but finished fifth in the final leaving many to wonder if he would ever be back amongst the elite.  Just a year later the James had to deal with the cancelation of the Olympic Games and the disruption and uncertainty brought about by the pandemic.

After clocking a time of 43.88 in the semi-finals, his fastest since 2012, the athlete showed that he was doubtlessly back to his best, and, despite not crossing the line first in the final, after four years of tribulation, the bronze medal was a sweet reward for the Grenadian.

“It’s always great.  You have to give credit to all eight guys in the race, they are so, so good, so it's tough to race against them.  I’m just happy to compete against those guys and get a medal,” James said.

“I had an illness.  It’s still going on, I have to be on medication for the rest of my life.  2019 I lost my mother who was the matriarch of our family,” James added.

“I’ve had to deal with Covid, the quarantines and the lockdowns and not having a place to train and trying to figure things out.  So, it’s been a whirlwind, a roller coaster.”

James became the first man in Olympic history to win a medal in the event at three different Games.

Related items

  • Chris Martin to headline Reggae Pop-Up vibe for Penn Relays 2024 Chris Martin to headline Reggae Pop-Up vibe for Penn Relays 2024

    The 128th staging of the Penn Relays will be special.

    Sixty years after Jamaican teams first competed at the prestigious relay carnival in Philadelphia, the black, green and gold will again take the spotlight at the 2024 staging from April 25-27 at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

    Team Jamaica Bickle, celebrating 30 years, will execute a Reggae Pop-Up vibe on the final day (April 27) and will for the first time, have a DJ, Road International and live performance from Christopher Martin, a former TBJ ambassador.

    Martin who won the 2005 Digicel Rising Stars Contest and who has since gone up to establish himself as one of Jamaica's biggest acts over the last two decades will be the main act in a 20-minute set, never before experienced at the Penn Relays.

    The award-winning Road International led by DJ Roy will provide the initial vibe for a massive anchor by Martin.

    Irwine Clare Snr, head of Team Jamaica thanks the collaborative effort of VP Records, The University of Pennsylvania, the Consulate of New York, Hypa Active Sounds and Jamaican Dave Productions for making this trailblazing event a reality.

    The three-day relay carnival will feature top high school, university and Olympic Development teams from the USA, Canada, Jamaica and the Caribbean.

  • Mills stresses significance of Racers Grand Prix to young athletes' development Mills stresses significance of Racers Grand Prix to young athletes' development

    Celebrated coach and Racers Track Club President Glen Mills says the value of meets such as the Racers Grand Prix cannot be overstated, given the significant role it plays in the development of the country’s young athletes in particular.

    Mills’s comments came as he announced the plethora of local and international stars that are expected to set this year’s sixth edition of the Racers Grand Prix alight at the National Stadium on June 1.

    Among them is American World champion Noah Lyles, who clocked a superb 19.67s to win the 200m, sharing the spotlight with Jamaica's Shericka Jackson and South African Wayde Van Niekerk last year.

    He is set to line up in the men’s 100m on this occasion, alongside rising Jamaican sensation Oblique Seville, World University champion Kadrian Goldson, Great Britain’s World Championships bronze medallist Zharnel Hughes, Canadian Aaron Brown and American Kendal Williams, with two more athletes to be confirmed.

    According to Mills, who was instrumental in the decorated career of now-retired Usain Bolt, having young athletes compete on home soil against world class superstars not only drives their development, but also influences positive behavioural changes towards training.

    Reigning 400m World champion Antonio Watson is one such example, as he broke the 45-second barrier for the first time on his debut outing at the event last year, and he later followed that up by topping a quality field in Budapest, Hungary. 

    “A meet of this level is very important in development of our athletes, and I don't think we can underscore its value in their development as a coach. I can tell you, when we have them competing here in Jamaica against the world and the fans come out and really cheer for them, it makes a difference when they return to the training field,” Mills said during the event’s launch at the Jamaica Pegasus on Tuesday.

    “They know and feel the support and the energy and electricity. When that happens, we get better performances on the training track, and as you can see, it goes on to the international stage as well. So, thank you for supporting Racers Grand Prix all and I'm hoping to see everyone on June 1,” he added.

    Known globally as Jamaica’s foremost track and field meet credited with showcasing many of Jamaica’s most decorated athletes, Racers Grand Prix, a World Athletics Continental Tour Silver event, promises an exhilarating demonstration of athletic excellence.

    There are 13 events –men’s and women’s 100m, 200m, 400m and 400m hurdles, women’s 100m hurdles, men’s 110m hurdles, as well as the men’s long jump, triple jump and discus throw –to be contested across two-and-a-half hours of scintillating action starting at 7:00pm.

    The women's 100m hurdles is headlined by Bahamas’s World Indoor champion Devynne Charlton, and Great Britain’s Cindy Sember, up against Jamaica’s Olympic bronze medallist Megan Tapper and rising Jamaican sensation Ackera Nugent.

    For the men’s 110m hurdles, Jamaica’s Olympic champion Hansle Parchment will lead compatriots Damion Thomas and last year’s champion Tyler Mason, against the American duo of Trey Cunningham and Robert Dunning.

    World champion Antonio Watson headlines the field for the men’s 400m, which includes Champion Allison and Nigerian NCAA champion Emmanuel Bamidele. Demish Gaye, Zandrion Barnes and Javon Francis, are the other Jamaicans confirmed.

    Meanwhile, World Indoor champion Julien Alfred of St Lucia headlines the women’s 100m field, alongside Jamaica’s Alana Reid, Ashanti Moore and World Indoor silver medallist Mikiah Brisco, with four more ladies to be confirmed.

    World Championships finalist Roshawn Clarke headlines the men’s 400m hurdles field, while Ireland’s NCAA Champion Rhasidat Adeleke will square off against Jamaica’s Stacy Ann Williams, Candice McLeod, Charokee Young, and Junelle Bromfield in the women’s 400m.

    American Will Abbey Steiner and Trinidad and Tobago’s Jereem Richards top the list of competitors for the men’s and women’s 200m. In the field, Jamaica’s Jaydon Hibbert and American Will Claye lead the confirmed athletes for the men’s triple jump, while another Jamaican Carey McLeod, and Laquan Nairn of Bahamas, will line up in the long jump, with three more athletes to be confirmed.