Kamara James (pictured), who wowed spectators around the world back in 2004 at the summer Athens Olympic Games with her fencing skills, has passed away at age 29 in Modesto, Calif., from causes that are still unknown, according to USA Fencing.
James, who was born in Jamaica, came to these shores as a young child, and she and her family eventually settled in Queens, N.Y. James’ interest in fencing began to grown in the fifth grade, when she was exposed to the Peter Westbrook Foundation, an organization set up by an American Olympian that provided fencing lessons to inner-city youths.
Soon James’ interest in fencing climaxed once her skill level allowed her to participate in competitions, and by 2003, James won a bronze medal at the junior world championships. Just a year later in 2004, James, who was 19 and attending the prestigious Princeton University on a full scholarship that she received after obtaining a near perfect SAT score and being an honors student in high school, earned a worldwide fencing ranking of 50, securing her a spot on the summer Olympics fencing team as one of its youngest members.
After her stint at the Olympics games, James went on to secure her Princeton degree in religion and was even accepted in to Harvard to pursue a Master’s degree in comparative religion.
A friend of James, Erinn Smart, told USA Fencing just how dedicated the athlete was to her sport, saying, “What always amazed me about Kamara was how diligent she was. I knew her from the day she started fencing and instantly everyone knew she was a precocious talent. She had the best performance markers of anyone I’d ever seen. At that point, we’d had athletes from PWF on the junior and cadet teams and I kind of had a good gauge of where one should be and she always worked harder than anyone in her age category. She lived 90 minutes away and was always the first one there and last one to leave.”
Even after James laid down her fencing gear, she still had love for the sport of fencing. According to Smart, “It really changed the trajectory of her life and she appreciated everything she learned from the sport and all of the opportunities she had.”