Merlene Ottey: her enduring legacy
Most people will remember Merlene Ottey as Jamaica’s most enduring sprinter with an international career spanning the last three decades.
The woman, who has competed in seven Olympic Games, and who just failed to make her eighth as part of Slovenia’s relay team, has the unfortunate label of “Bronze Queen” due to her many runner-up spots at major championships —15 in total.
But, with all her achievements and still being among the 10 fastest women of all time in the 100m and 200m, how complete of an assessment is that for a woman who still runs competitively at age 52?
Ottey has three silver medals and six bronze medals from the Olympic Games; three gold, four silver and seven bronze medals from the outdoor World Championships; three gold, two silver and one bronze medal from the indoor World Championships and three gold, one silver and one bronze from the Commonwealth Games.
Certainly one of the most decorated track athletes ever, Ottey still holds the record for the indoor 200m at 21.87 and has the distinction of winning 73 successive races, according to the IAAF, athletics’ governing body.
In any assessment, it must be considered that Ottey competed during a time when doping was rampant in sports, with some nations such as East Germany having state-sponsored drug programmes.
Had Ottey been competing on a level running track, her legacy would be far different.
Ottey became a citizen of Slovenia in 2002 following widespread controversy about her being selected to represent Jamaica at the Sydney Olympics after placing fourth in the 100m at the national trials.
Despite not having that all-important Olympic gold medal, Ottey remains one of the most accomplished athletes to have come from Jamaica —a true legend.