Above: Kirani James
By Michael Bascombe
ISTANBUL – Grenada’s 400-metre World Champion Kirani James is all set for a shot at another world title this weekend as he competes in the IAAF World Indoor Championships that started here Friday.
This will be his fourth indoor event for the year following consecutive victories in New York, Arkansas and Stockholm, Sweden.
But his attempt at the indoor world title is seen as important mental and physical preparation for the London Olympic Games this summer.
He may also add to the Grenada record books as the first athlete to win both world titles. Former national quarter-mile champion Alleyne Francique twice won the Indoor title, but was edged out of a medal at the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004.
James is strongly favoured to win gold at Saturday’s final, but that depends on the opening round on Friday. His strongest challenge is expected from the defending Indoor Champion, Chris Brown of the Bahamas, as well as Tabarie Henry of the United States Virgin Islands and the American duo of Gil Roberts and Calvin Smith. Previews have also listed Britain’s Nigel Levine as a contender.
The IAAF has reported that these championships are on course to become the biggest gathering in terms of participating national IAAF Member Federations in the history of these championships, exceeding the previous record set four years ago in Valencia, Spain.
The IAAF said that with 172 National Member Federations entering athletes to compete at the Atakoy Athletics Arena this weekend, Istanbul 2012 should surpass Valencia 2008 where 147 countries, also a participating record at the time, contested the event.
A total of 1,299 athletes and officials are also expected to attend what will be the IAAF’s most important event of the 2012 World Athletics Series. Following the Feb. 27 deadline for Final Entries, 349 male athletes, 334 female athletes and 616 officials have entered.
James is the lone competitor for the Spice Isle following a withdrawal by Rondell Bartholomew and Triple Jumper Randy Lewis’ decision to skip the indoor season.
In 2011 James became the youngest-ever World or Olympic at 400m and was named a Sports Ambassador by the Grenada Government. Earlier this year, the Government also renamed a major roadway in the capital, the “Kirani James Boulevard”.
For more on James, see his interview with Caribbean Journal from earlier this year.