Kamara James, who was a member of the 2004 U.S. Olympic fencing team, has died at the age of 29 according to the U.S. Fencing Association.
James was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and moved to Queens, New York, at the age of 10. She had a full scholarship to Princeton and graduated with a degree in religious studies from the prestigious Ivy League school in 2007.
Although initially considered a long shot to make the team, James went on to become one of the youngest members of the USA fencing team when she was selected for the 2004 Athens games at the age of 19. Unbeknownst to many, James raised more than $50,000 in donations to finance her efforts to compete in the 2004 Olympics.
“What always amazed me about Kamara was how diligent she was,” said Keeth Smart, a silver medalist at the 2008 games, who competed with James in Athens. “I knew her from the day she started fencing and instantly everyone knew she was a precocious talent.”
Don Anthony, President of USA Fencing, issued the following statement on James:
“Kamara James was one of the brightest, precocious, self-assured young people I ever met. From her time as a very young fencer at the Peter Westbrook Foundation to her years at Princeton as an accomplished Olympian she remained warm, caring and confident. Kamara’s untimely passing leaves our fencing community very saddened and her spirit, charm and wit will be dearly missed.”
Though an exact cause of death has not been released, according to an entry on Fencing.net by Eric Rosenberg, James may have suffered from mental issues:
“Unfortunately, mental illness proved Kamara’s most unrelenting adversary. Still, just prior to her death, she had resumed a stable drug regimen, was living comfortably and had begun thinking about the future.”
Plans for a memorial service for Kamara James have yet to be released.