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July 27, 2012TUSCALOOSA | World champion runner Kirani James will lead a small group of current and former University of Alabama athletes at the Summer Games in London as part of a contingent of 173 former and current athletes and coaches from Southeastern Conference schools who will be competing at the 2012 Olympics.
James, the reigning 400-meter world champion and an NCAA champion in the event while at Alabama before leaving to join the professional ranks, will represent Grenada in the Olympics. His best time in the 400 meters is 44.36 seconds, and he broke records held by Usain Bolt in world junior events before arriving at UA.
Alabama will also be represented in swimming, with newly-hired UA head swimming and diving coach Dennis Pursley coaching the British team, current Alabama swimmer Kristel Vourna competing for Greece and former Crimson Tide swimmer Alrene Semeco swimming for Venezuela.
Pursley earned All-SEC honors and won the 1969 SEC 200-meter backstroke championship as a swimmer at Alabama. He has coached at the international level with the U.S., Australia and now Great Britain.
Vourna holds the Greek record in the 100-meter butterfly, which she set at 49.27 seconds while placing in the top 25 in the 2011 World Championships. She competed in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle and 100 butterfly at the NCAA championships for Alabama, earning Freshman All-SEC honors.
Semenco will be competing in the Summer Games for the third time at age 28. The Venezuelan will compete in the 50-meter freestyle after swimming in the 50- and 100-meter events in both 2004 in Athens, Greece, and 2008 in Beijing, China. Semenco placed 27th in the 50 freestyle and 29th in the 100 freestyle in 2004, then finished 15th in the 50 meters and 30th in the 100 four years later.
Florida leads the SEC in representatives in London with 39 current or former athletes participating. Among the top names with SEC ties competing this summer are former LSU hurdler Lolo Jones, former Kentucky basketball player Anthony Davis, former LSU women's basketball player Seimone Augustus, former Tennessee women's basketball player Candace Parker and former Florida swimmer Ryan Lochte. SEC-affiliated athletes won 51 medals in the 2008 Games.