(Photo: Courtesy of U.S. Olympic Committee)
Jamaican-born Olympic fencer Kamara James was found dead in her apartment on September 20 after a long battle with schizophrenia. According to People, the death is still under investigation and does not appear to be suspicious or suicidal in nature.
Raised in Queens, New York, James took to fencing at the age of nine when she was introduced to the sport by the Peter Westbrook Foundation. By her late teens, she was a world junior bronze medalist. Through her talent in fencing, she earned a scholarship to a prestigious New York City private school and later landed a scholarship to Princeton University.
After representing the United States at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, James returned to Princeton to continue her studies. However, during her senior year, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and remained in the hospital for treatment for three months. Once she was released, she managed to write her thesis and graduate on time.
Years later, James, who became estranged from her mother, continued to suffer, spending much of her 20s in and out of treatment and halfway houses, and was even homeless at times. "She was beaten up," said Eric Rosenberg, a one-time trainer and friend of James. "She lacked a lot of the energy she had. She was emaciated, unkempt, wearing filthy clothes."
Her friend Goto, who started fencing with James, said, "She would go into hospitals, get better or get more medication, then she would be released and there was no support for her."
"The only positive thing that came out of this for me is maybe people who have this kind of problem can see that there is some potential solution," Rosenberg said. "Making opportunities in the midst of tragedy defined her life."
Our condolences to Kamara James's fans, family and friends.