'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.

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