Olympic fencer Kamara James has passed away at age 29.
The New York native, who made headlines at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, was found dead in her apartment on Sept. 20, 2014. A spokesperson for the coroner has said the death is still under investigation, though it does not appear to be suspicious and suicide is not believed to be the cause.
In addition to an impressive athletic and academic career, the Princeton grad was open about mental health advocacy after she was diagnosed with schizophrenia during her senior year of college.
USA Fencing president Don Anthony issued a statement on the untimely death of the superstar, who the Jamaican Fencing Federation called a “shining star among her peers.”
“Kamara James was one of the brightest, precocious, self-assured young people I have ever met,” Mr. Anthony’s statement read.
“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 dearly be missed.”
Since her diagnosis at Princeton, mental illness often plagued the young star. After a three-month stay in the hospital, she returned to school, wrote her thesis and managed to graduate on time, her longtime friend and former trainer Eric Rosenberg said.
But in recent years, things took a turn for the worse. Friends would find Kamara, who was long estranged from her mother, wandering the streets of New York “incoherent and delusional.”
“She was beaten up. She lacked a lot of the energy she had,” Eric said of his late friend. “She was emaciated, unkempt, wearing filthy clothes. She would go into hospitals, get better or get more medication, then she would be released and there was no support for her.”