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Kamara James

Kamara James
2004 Fencing Olympians from Peter Westbrook FoundationKeeth SmartErinn SmartIvan Lee, and Kamara James on far right
Personal information
Full nameKamara Latoya James
BornNovember 23, 1984
DiedSeptember 20, 2014 (aged 29)
Modesto, California, United States
ResidenceModesto, California
Height5–5.5 (167 cm)[1]
Weight134 lb (61 kg)[1]
CountryUnited States
Event(s)women's individual épée
College teamPrinceton University[2]
ClubPeter Westbrook Foundation
Achievements and titles
World finalsbronze medal (junior world championships; 2003)
Highest world ranking50
Kamara Latoya James (November 23, 1984 – September 20, 2014) was an American Olympic épée fencer.[3][4]
James was born in Kingston, Jamaica, into a single-parent household. Her family moved to JamaicaQueens, New York, when she was 10. She was given a full fencing scholarship to The Dwight School, an independent college preparatory school. She then attended Princeton University on a full academic scholarship.
James began fencing at age 11, through the Peter Westbrook Foundation. In 2003, she won a bronze medal at the junior world championships.
She competed in the women's individual épée event at the 2004 Summer Olympics.[5] James died at age 29, in September 2014.

Early life

James, who was Black, was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1984, into a single-parent household.[6][7] Her parents separated before she was born; she met her father only once during her childhood.[8] Her mother, Sandra Fernandez,[8] remarried to Delano Fernandez when James was 7.
The family moved to JamaicaQueens, New York, three years later.[8][9] She attended Public School 3 in Greenwich Village.[8]James' stepfather died of brain cancer two years later, in 1996.[8][10][11] James was given a full fencing scholarship to The Dwight School, an independent college preparatory school located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where annual tuition was $28,000.[7][8]
She scored a 1,510 on her SAT.[12] She then attended Princeton University on a full academic scholarship, majoring in religious studies.[7][13]

Fencing career

James began fencing at age 11 during fifth grade, through the Peter Westbrook Foundation, which had been set up by American Olympic bronze medalist Peter Westbrook to offer fencing lessons to inner-city children in New York.[10][6][12] Andrea Schwartz, one of her teachers at Public School 3, introduced her to Westbrook.[8]
From the age of 16, she was on the US Senior National Team in women's épée.[7] In 2003, she won a bronze medal at the junior world championships.[9]
She gained a world ranking of 50 in épée, which earned her a place on the Olympic team for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. After she had an internship at Morgan Stanley, the firm gave her a $50,000 grant to support her Olympic expenses.[8]
She competed in the 2004 Olympics as a 19-year-old, and the only American in the women's individual épée event.[7][9][10] She was defeated 15–11 by 10th-seeded RussianTatyana Logunova.[1][14]
She retired from competitive fencing after the Olympics.[7]

Later life

James returned to Princeton after the Athens Olympics.[7][9] James was diagnosed with schizophrenia in her senior year at Princeton, when she had a breakdown and was hospitalized for three months.[11][15][16][17]
She graduated in 2007 with a degree in religious studies.[7][9] She then was admitted into Harvard, to study for a master’s degree in comparative religion.[7] She then participated in the opening of a fencing club in Greenwich, Connecticut, but subsequently suffered a second breakdown.[16]
In 2011, she moved to Modesto, California.[15]
James died at age 29, and was found September 20, 2014, in her apartment in Modesto, California.[4][9][11] Her death was reported by the U.S. Olympic team in mid-October 2014.[18] Her cause of death was not disclosed.[18] Friends and former teammates noted that she had a mental illness.[18][19] Friends indicated that she had just settled down into a "stable drug regimen" to handle her mental illness before her death.[19] A spokesperson for the coroner said her death was still under investigation a month after she was discovered, but did not appear suspicious, and suicide was not believed to be the cause.[11]
She is to be buried in Farmingdale, Long Island, New York on October 25, 2014.[20]