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Kirani James has swept gold at every level of track and field – from the Caribbean region’s CARIFTA Games to the global pinnacle, the Olympics. He is Grenada’s first Olympic medalist in any sport, but years before his international string of successes, he ruled the roost as a high schoolboy, when he ran the fastest 400m times ever by a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old.
James’ early prowess on the track was often seen when he won a series of gold medals at the CARIFTA Games and the Commonwealth Youth Games. At the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games, he won gold in a new games record of 46.66. At his third and final CARIFTA meet in 2009, he clocked a personal best (PB) of 45.45secs to erase Usain Bolt’s six-year-old record of 46.35 and won the Austin Sealy Trophy for the most outstanding athlete of the Games. His next achievement was a Pan American Junior Championships gold. Later that same year, James stepped up the throttle in international competition, when he became the first athlete to run and win a 200m/400m double at the World Youth Championships. The following year, he was the 2010 World Junior 400m champion and a year later copped his second Pan-Am Juniors gold.
An athletic scholarship to the University of Alabama provided just the training the articulate and academically inclined teenager needed to put him among the big boys of track. He won back-to-back NCAA Outdoor Championship titles in his first two years there and took gold at the Daegu 2011 Worlds (of which a street in Grenada’s capital city of St. George’s was named for him) and the London 2012 Olympics, where he ran a PB of 43.94. His performance at the Olympic Games made him the first non-American to break the 44-seconds barrier.
Although James has shown tremendous potential over 200m, his focus remains the quarter-mile. He is one of nine athletes to have won World Championships gold at the youth, junior, and senior level of an athletic competition.
A newly renovated athletics and football and stadium in Grenada will be named for James.