Funeral Set For Jamaican-Born, U.S. Olympic Fencer

The late Kamara James. ( image)

By NAN Staff Writer

News Americas, LONG ISLAND, NY, Mon. Oct. 20, 2014: Jamaican-born, U.S. Olympic fencer, Kamara James, is set to be laid to rest this Friday in Long island New York.

The 19-year-old Queens resident, who represented Team USA as one of the youngest fencers at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens as the only U.S. women’s epee fencer to qualify for the Games, passed away recently in Modesto, California at age 29.

The Kingston-born James won bronze at the age of 19 at the 2004 Athens Games and was one of the youngest fencers to represent the USA at the Games.

The Westbrook Foundation, who James started fencing through at age 11, said “A Celebration of the Extraordinary life of Kamara James” will be held St. Charles Resurrection Cemeteries, 2015 Wellwood Ave., in Farmingdale, L.I., New York on Oct. 25 with morning interment and a graveside service at 11 a.m.

A memorial celebration will follow at the VFW Hall, 350 South Broadway, in Hicksville, L.I., from 1 to 3 p.m.

James migrated with her family from Jamaica to Queens, N.Y. at age 10 and excelled in middle school where she earned a full scholarship to The Dwight School.

Outstanding grades and a near perfect SAT score allowed James to secure an academic scholarship to Princeton. She took a year off from college to train for the Games, but James lacked both the experience and financial resources of her competitors.

Undeterred, she put together a full business plan and solicited more than $50,000 in donations to support the travel and training she would need to follow her Olympic dream.

“Most people can’t book their own plane tickets at that age and she created a budget for two full seasons,” 2008 Olympic silver medalist Keeth Smar told USA Fencing. “She made up her mind, knew she wanted to do this and that was it. She reached out to donors with a business plan and what her short term and long term goals were as well as what the return on investment would be. She was really grounded in terms of knowing how to take the steps she would need to reach any goal.”

Smart competed with James in Athens and trained with her for more than a decade at the Peter Westbrook Foundation.

“Bar none, Kamara was one of the smartest people I’ve ever come across. Sometimes the strongest and fastest win, but to have a great career in fencing, you have to be one of the smartest and she definitely was it,” she was quoted as saying.

In a post on its official Facebook page, the Jamaican Fencing Federation described Kamara as a “shining star among her peers.”

USA Fencing president Don Anthony, in a statement added: “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.”

No cause of death has been revealed for the fencer who graduated with a degree in religion from Princeton and had been accepted into Harvard to pursue a masters program.