James vows to get Caribbean athletes on the right track
LONDON, England, Friday August 10, 2012 – Olympic 400 metres gold medallist Kirani James has vowed to help a new generation of Caribbean sprint talent after he won Grenada's first medal in the history of the Games.
James, who stormed to victory in 43.94 seconds on Monday, said he wanted to help other youngsters from the region enjoy the same opportunities that had brought him success.
The Grenadian teenager, tipped by Michael Johnson to break his one-lap world record, revealed that “at school there was one guy who was faster than me but he fell by the side”.
"One of my jobs is to not let that happen again in my future," the 19-year-old said.
The newly crowned champion and his coach Harvey Glance believe the key to developing Caribbean sprint talent is to enrol promising youngsters in United States universities where the facilities are superior to most tracks they will find back home.
Grenada’s pride and joy is himself a student at the University of Alabama, where he was recruited by Glance who won a gold medal at the 1976 Montreal Games as part of the United States sprint relay quartet.
Glance says the Caribbean is making up for lost time, as his young charge proved by breaking the 28-year American stranglehold on the 400 metres at the London Olympics, and with Caribbean athletes asserting their authority over sprint rivals worldwide.
"They are somewhat behind in some of the things that we have but they are fast catching up because of performances like Bolt and Kirani and people like that who have set the stage for small countries," he said.
"With that they are going to get better through the years because people are going to put more into their country," he added.
James, who was just 18 when he won the world title last year, says he was inspired by double 100m and 200m Olympic champion Usain Bolt and his fellow Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell early in his career.
"There are a lot of guys who paved the way for us. We had Asafa, and Bolt is doing his thing now," he said.
Ironically, Bolt, Powell and distinguished newcomers like Johan Blake bucked the US training trend by insisting on remaining in Jamaica, where a formidable training group has developed around them.
But the American coach and his young Grenadian charge seem delighted with the decision they made to link up, which came after Glance heard of a remarkable talent who burst onto the scene aged 14 when he scorched to an age-group world record of 46.96 seconds.
"Neither of us feel like we made a mistake," said Glance.