Sports

Kirani's back!

Grenada's ace quarter-miler returns after battling Graves disease

BY HOWARD WALKER
Senior Staff reporter
walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, June 09, 2018

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Grenada's London 2012 Olympic 400m gold medallist Kirani James, who had been sidelined since last April, makes a welcome return to the track at the JN Racers Grand Prix, after revealing he was struck down by Graves disease.

James, who will be 25 years old in September, burst onto the international scene when he won the 400m at the World Championships in 2011 as a precocious 18-year-old before striking gold at the London Olympics in 2012.

However, after finishing second at the 2016 Rio Olympics behind Wayde Van Neikerk in world record time, James had to miss the 2017 London World Championships with a mysterious injury.

“I found out I had Graves' disease and for people who don't know what that's about, it's a disease that affects your thyroid. And when it overacts it affects your hormones, speeds up your metabolism, weight loss, muscle weaknesses, shortness of breath — a lot of symptoms; sometimes it varies. So I had to see doctors and be on medication,” James revealed.

The talented athlete who is Grenada's first and only Olympic champion and who has a stadium named in his honour on the small spice island, was speaking during a press briefing at Jamaica Pegasus hotel on the eve of the JN Racers Grand Prix here in Kingston.

“It's been a long road, so I am just glad to be back. And I just want to thank the Racers Grand Prix for inviting me and giving me an opportunity to come back and open up to see where I am at. I am just happy to be back,” he reiterated.

James, who has a personal best of 43.74 seconds, will line up in the 400m against American upstarts Fred Kerley (43.70) and Josephus Lyes (45.09); Jamaica's Demish Gaye (44.50) and Javon Francis (44.55). Also in the line-up will be James' compatriot Bralon Taplin (44.38), Trinidad and Tobago's Renny Quow (44.53), and Britain's Matthew Hudson-Smith (44.48).

It's a crack field that will more than likely push James to the limit in his comeback race, after over a year's absence in which a number of athletes have stepped up their games.

“For me the more guys are doing well in the event the better, and for me it's just a blessing to be amongst them and I am just happy to be a part of it,” said James.

Prodigious from a young age, James ran the fastest 400m time ever by a 14-year-old in 46.96 as he dominated the regional Carifta Games. He was the first athlete to win the 200/400m double at the 2009 World Youth Championships, and was the 2010 World Junior champion.

He struck gold at the senior World Championships in 2011 in 44.60 and became the youngest champion at age 18. Then at 19 years old he went one better and won gold at the London Olympics in 43.94, and becoming the first non-US runner to break the 44-second barrier.

At the 2015 World Championships, James won a bronze medal in the first 400m race where three men broke 44 seconds. At the Rio 2016 Olympics, he won the silver medal in the 400 metres in a time of 43.76 seconds, a race in which Van Niekerk established a new world record of 43.03 seconds running from lane eight.

But in 2017, injury struck as James' below par display at the Drake Relay left fans puzzled following his sixth place in a pedestrian 46.21 seconds, his slowest time in nine years. He would eventually miss the 2017 World Championships.

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