29th April 2020


In 2002, Vernicha James was the star of the World Junior Championships in Kingston, Jamaica as she left the championships with three medals to her name.

Coming into the championships, the Belgrave athlete had already displayed her prowess to the continent having won the European Under-20 Championship the previous year in 22.93s, moving her up to second in the all-time British junior rankings.

A double relay medal followed as she took on the third leg of the 4x100m bronze medal winning quartet, before stepping back onto the track as a member of the 4x400m relay, anchoring them to gold in 3:34.63.

James made comfortable progression into the semi-finals as she won her heat in 23.14s, qualifying as the second fastest athlete behind America’s Sanya Richards, and then went one better in the semi-finals as she took top spot in qualifying with a 23.07s performance.

The final was where she upped her game once again and pulled out the extra centimetres required in order to add the World title to her European title, won in Grosseto the previous year and become the first British woman to win the 200m title at the championship since Diane Smith in 1990, when she set the championship record.

She powered around the bend in near-perfect conditions and maintained her speed well as she approached the line, neck and neck with Anneisha McLaughlin of host nation, Jamaica. It was to be James’ day as she equalled her personal best of 22.93s to take gold, the Jamaican second in 22.94s.

James then followed up her individual performance with double success in the relay, helping the 4x100m quartet of Jade Lucas-Read, Jeanette Kwakye and Amy Spencer to bronze in 44.22s.

The original quartet of Lucas-Read, Danielle Norville, Spencer and James qualified comfortably for the final in 44.49s, good enough for second place in their heat, with Jamaica running out winners in 43.85s.

In the final, with Jeanette Kwakye coming in to replace Norville, they shaved a further 0.27s seconds off the time registered in their heat as they secured third spot, with Jamaica taking gold and the USA winning silver.

She and Spencer then stepped into the 4x400m quartet alongside Kim Wall and Lisa Miler to add another medal to the tally, as they took silver in a British Junior record of 3:30.46, behind the United States.

It was plain sailing for the 4x400m team as they qualified for the final second in their heat in 3:38.49 with Kim Wall, Rachael Thompson, Vicky Griffiths and Lisa Miller doing the business, before James came into the team, along with Spencer and put pedal to the metal and took eight seconds off their time from the heat to secure silver.

Their efforts helped the British team to equal 12th on the medal table with three medals, one of each colour.