Kirani James – a story of determination and triumph

Senior Staff reporter

Thursday, June 14, 2018

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In arguably the performance of the JN Racers Grand Prix, Kirani James of Grenada sped to a very fast 44.35 seconds to win the 400m in his first race over a year after recovering from Graves' disease.

The 24-year-old James, before Saturday, last raced in April 2017 because of the illness and fans were not sure what to expect from the London 2012 Olympic champion. But true to his talent and high standards, he delivered.

Drawn in lane five behind his countryman Bralon Taplin in lane six, James was quickly past the fast-starting American Fred Kerley at the 150-metre mark and came into the straight some six metres behind in third spot.

But like a true champion and the Jamaican crowd urging him on, James turned on the afterburners, went by Taplin in the last 60m, but still had work to do and some how found that extra gear to catch Kerley on the line.

The stadium erupted simultaneously with fireworks as the victorious James kissed his hand and pointed to the skies.

“It's just a blessing to be back. I just thank God for the ability to come back and to race, especially in a nation where track and field is taken very seriously,” said James.

“So, I am just grateful to be here, to be back, and just glad I came and put on a show for the fans,” he added.

It was a very good time for James, whose last race came at the Drakes Relays in 2017, where he clocked 46.21, finishing sixth. It was his slowest time in nine years. That's when he discovered something was wrong and he would eventually miss the 2017 World Championships in London.

James' 44.35 was the 10th-best performance in the world, which is remarkable seeing that his personal best is 43.74 set in 2014. It augurs well for him and the rest of the season.

“It was a great support, but I have to also give credit to Fred for giving me a challenge and I had no choice but to accept that challenge, and we just took it down to the wire and eventually I came out with the win,” James explained.

“The last 50m I could hear the crowd start to cheer, because they saw something special that was going to happen between me, Fred and Bralon. So I am just grateful to be in front of this crowd and I know how seriously track and field is taken here. So it's just a blessing,” he reiterated.

Meanwhile, his coach Harvey Glance told the Jamaica Observer that James' comeback was his best coaching achievement to date, having to change his programme entirely.

“Well, after being away from competition for pretty much the past season I was ecstatic about the way he performed because he is coming from a very, very long way,” said Glance.

“I wouldn't wish this on any coach or any athlete to go through what he has gone through. It was very difficult to watch the two races prior to this last one he ran because of the uncertainty of what was going on,” he noted.

“But it's a testimony to Kirani's dedication, his willingness to make sacrifices to try to come back to be the athlete he once was. So, while I am ecstatic about the performance, I am more ecstatic about the effort in trying to get back to the top,” he reiterated.

“We had to alter training tremendously, and I tell people all the time that this is by far my best coaching job. This time we had to alter an entire training regime to get him to this point.

“We knew that [he was] ready to run and so everything looked promising, but we still had not been in race form or competition for so long and that was the challenge,” Glance explained.

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