Kirani James/Photo Credit: M Bascombe

Kirani James/Photo Credit: M Bascombe

by Aaron Suttles
Sports Writer/TuscaloosaNews

TUSCALOOSA, AL, July 12, 2013 – He is at the top of his craft, and, given the options at his disposal, it may come as a surprise to most that one of the world’s best sprinters makes his home in Tuscaloosa.

Kirani James, the 20-year-old reigning Olympic and world track and field champion in the 400 meters, seemingly has the world at his fingertips. He has the fastest time on the planet in the 400 this year, a 43.96 last Saturday in the Athletics Diamond League meet at Stade de France Stadium in Saint Denis, France. It is the only sub-44 run in 2013.

But in between meets and during the offseason, James comes back to Tuscaloosa to train and for school. He took the indoor track season off after a busy 2012 schedule.

“It was a long year last year,” James said. “It gave me time to recover and get ready for the outdoor season.”

He has run in five meets this year, winning all except one. He finished second in June to 2008 Olympic gold medal winner LaShawn Merritt at a meet in Eugene, Ore. He avenged the defeat to Merritt last Saturday.

“A lot of people see it as a rivalry,” James said. “Maybe they’re looking for a rivalry. I see it as good competition for the sport. I think it brings out the best in both of us. It’s good to have a guy like that out there. I like to compete against him.”

He plans to compete in London later this month at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Two weeks after that he’ll attempt to defend his title as world champion at the IAFF World Championships in Moscow, Russia, in August.

His London Olympic gold medal, which is tucked away in a safety deposit box, and Nike endorsement have made him more visible and one of track and field’s more recognizable names to the general public. But the naturally reserved James stays away from the spotlight that his successes has cast his way. That’s part of the reason he chose Tuscaloosa.

“I prefer to keep things very simple,” he said. “When I go back home to Grenada, people are very excited to see me. They are happy to see me. But it’s a different feeling in Tuscaloosa. Things are much more casual here. I can be low key and take care of the things I need to take care of.

“All of the exposure comes with the territory. I somewhat embrace it. I never want to take it for granted. I’m very thankful for the opportunities that I have, but I don’t get carried away with it.”

He took two classes at UA during the spring semester and plans to take two more this fall after he concludes his outdoor season in August. He’s studying general business.

“I still have a long way to go,” he said. “If I went full time I’d have about one-and-a-half or two years left. Since I’m going part-time it’s more extended.

“I can’t compete for the rest of my life. I have to have something to fall back on. In this day and age you really can’t do anything without a college degree. My aim is to be a college graduate to secure my future.”

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I just love this inspirational for a youth...

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