When Kirani James dueled LaShawn Merritt at the World Championships in 2011, I was not stunned, but surprised that the eighteen year old could take down Merritt so easily. In 2012, in London, I watched James defeat the best in the world over 400 meters once again.
This third press conference today, featured Ato Boldon, the 1996 Olympic silver medalist at the 100 and 200 meters, and Kirani James.
Kirani James, London 2012, photo by PhotoRun.net
Kirani James is an enigma. Kirani James will be super star. And Kirani James is only 19.
Ato Boldon put it best. " On one's bucketlist as an athlete, you have World Championships, you have Olympic medals. Well, Kirani James already has those."
Here are the highlights of the Kirani James press conference:
Question: What was the reception like for you back home in Grenada?
Kirani James:" Everyone in Grenada was excited and proud, and there were a real feling of the country being so united and happy. I did not drink, I do not drink, but a lot of people drank for me! "
Question: Has there been even more interest in athletics in your country since your successes at the World Champs and Olympics?
Kirani James:" In 2004, there was a surge of interest in Athletics after Alleyne Francique had a great season. It is even more popular now, but, there has always been a strong interest in Grenada. "
Question: Do you think you can break the world record?
Kirani James: "It would be great if the world record happens, but it is not something I am obsessed with. It's all about just improving as an athlete in each and every meet and in each training session. If it happens, then it is meant to be."
Question: Outside of athletics, what other sports do you like?
Kirani James: There is a strong background of basketball in my family. My father and my brothers play it a lot. My favorite team is Oklahoma City Thunder.
(Questions for 1997 World 200 meter champion, Ato Bolden)
Question: What would your advice be for Kirani James?
Ato Boldon: Kirani should be giving everyone else tips. When you get into this business there are several things you want to check off the list. World Champion, he has done that. World Junior Champion, he's done that. My only advice to him, which I said to him and the people of Grenada last year, was to stop talking about the world record. Allow him to go out and compete freely. He took that advice and the results certainly showed in London.
Question: Who do you think should win the Athlete of the Year?
Ato Boldon: My vote went to Aries Merritt. I feel he lined up week after week against top opposition. I also feel he can take the world record under 12.80 but he will need someone close to him to push him to that.
Question: In your opinion, is Usain Bolt the greatest sprinter of all time?
Ato Boldon: In this sport, everything is measured by Olympic success. What Bolt did in London, winning back to back titles in the 100 meters, 200 meters, and relay, that has never been done before. So, you can make a good case for Bolt being the number one sprinter of all time, even though he is not done.
Question: Can Yohan Blake be an even greater sprinter than Usain Bolt?
Ato Boldon: It is very hard to bet against a 22 year old who is running 9.6 and 19.2. When I saw 19.32, I thought that would be there forever, but it was gone in twelve years. So, in the same way that people look at 9.58 and 19.19 and think that they might be there forever, you need to look behind and see people like Yohan who is very hungry and has a great work ethic. I actually think that Yohan Blake will run Bolt out of the 100 meters, forcing Bolt to become a 200m and 400m athlete in the next few years.