Grenada’s ‘Jaguar’ ready to roar in London
LONDON, (Reuters) – Teenager Kirani James’s biggest improvement has had to come off the track since a shock 400 metres world title last year propelled him into the limelight, his coach Harvey Glance said yesterday.
With only a handful of professional races to his name James’s victory in Daegu, South Korea last August, made him the third youngest world champion and has put the athlete nicknamed ‘The Jaguar’ among the big boys for the one-lap showdown at London’s Olympic Games.
“He’s done a lot off the track, that’s where he’s improved the most because he had to balance a lot since winning the world championships,” Glance told Reuters on the outskirts of the athlete’s village in Stratford, East London.
The victory, a first senior global medal in track and field for Grenada, made the then 18-year-old instantly recognisable back home, and others have taken notice too.
In between a return to school work, endorsements and major sponsorship have come calling, as did a worldwide tour of embassies on behalf of his nation.
“We have had to balance all that in a three month period before we got back to training,” Glance, a former Olympic sprint relay champion, said.
While his fame has spread in the athletics world, it had not quite reached fans in Stratford, with some asking who the lanky 19-year-old in the media scrum was. James obliged by flipping his ID badge round the right way as the wind played havoc.
This season James has not yet hit the heights of last year, finishing last in the world indoor championships final and managing the ninth fastest time on the world list.
James, though, said his main focus had always been London.
“We have everything in order, everything set and I am ready to run here,” James, who will be up against this year’s fastest man – American LaShawn Merritt – in London, told Reuters.