Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Kirani James: a true champion


There is only one student on the Alabama campus who can also call himself a certified professional athlete. His name is Kirani James, and he is the reigning world champion for the 400m in track.

James became the youngest person to ever win a world championship and is also the first person from his native country of Grenada to receive a gold medal at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea earlier this month.

“I think it was a very satisfactory performance,” James said. “I think that represented my country well, and I’m glad I came out with the win.”

Before turning pro, James completed two record-breaking seasons as a member of the Crimson Tide men’s track team. While on the track team, he won two NCAA outdoor championships in the 400m, was a three-time SEC Champion and was named the 2011 SEC Indoor and Outdoor Runner of the Year.

“I knew at the beginning of the fall that he was pretty much ready to go professional based off of how workouts were going and times he was performing in practice,” said Harvey Glance, James’ former coach. “When the season started, he set the world junior record at Arkansas, and then I knew that he was ready to go to the next level. That was a true indication.”

Glance said even though a lot of people doubted James’ ability to take his talents to the next level, there was never a doubt in his mind.

James does all of this in track – a sport that features some of the world’s greatest athletes but does not get as much attention or media coverage as other sports.

“It’s a sport that I like,” James said. “Although it doesn’t get the respect and exposure that it deserves, when people know what I do, they know they respect that. I think, being a track athlete, you have to be strong mentally as a person and be dedicated. There’s a connection between me and track.”

Success has come for James since he entered his teenage years. Through all of his achievements and accolades, he stays humble.

“What keeps me grounded is my family and being around good people,” he said. “I have great friends back home and here at the University. They don’t treat me like I’m different, and that helps me stay grounded. Representing my country and making everyone proud, I think those are the factors that keep me grounded.”

James’ last competition was at the World Championships in August. There, he posted a personal best time of 44.60 seconds in the 400m and defeated defending champion LaShawn Merritt for the gold medal. Merritt was seven years James’ senior at the time of the race.

As a pro, James has had the opportunity to travel the world and meet some of his favorite athletes.

“I get to see a lot of places,” he said. “I get to travel a lot and meet a lot of new people and athletes – athletes that I look up to and admire. It has a lot of advantages, and it is a lot of fun.”

James said the main difference between being a college and professional athlete is having to do everything on his own; there is no set schedule. As a professional, he says there is no time for immaturity.

James will have a month of rest until he starts back training. Until his next competition, which will be next year, he is still attending classes as a student and business major at the University.

James has accomplished almost everything possible for an athlete. One of his next stops will be the 2012 Summer Olympics – sports’ biggest stage.

“I think that right now, he is one of the favorites to win the gold,” Glance said. “Even though he’s young and just has a year of experience under his belt, I still think that he’s such a great talent and a blessed young man that good things are going to happen for him.”

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