LONDON, England — Jamaican track and field icons Merlene Ottey and Donald Quarrie have reacted with humility after receiving Lifetime Achievement Awards at the Jamaica 50 Independence Gala Dinner and UK Awards ceremony at the Emirates Stadium in north London on Thursday night.
Ottey and Quarrie, who combined to win almost 50 medals at major global championships over their careers, were among 10 persons who were singled out for the awards at a function that was delayed.
Ottey, who won 34 medals at the Olympic Games, IAAF World Championships, IAAF World Indoors and Commonwealth Games, said the award was special as “it recognises my whole career in track and field and it's an honour for me to accept”.
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer prior to the start of the ceremony, Ottey, who was besieged with autograph and photo opportunity requests all evening, says track and field is second nature to her and she would continue competing as long as she could.
“It's my passion for the sports,” she said that keeps her going. “When you get to a certain stage and after doing something so long, it is hard to let go, it becomes second nature, I have the talent and I want to hold on to this talent for some time,” said Ottey, who now competes for Slovenia.
The 52-year-old, who was the Slovenia National Champion in the 100m in 2007, said she watched every race involving Jamaican athletes at the recently concluded Olympic Games in London and was thrilled with the results.
“Excellent performances,” she said of what she saw. “We were hoping to win everything but it wasn't possible... but winning 12 medals was excellent,” she said.
Quarrie, who was the technical leader of the Jamaican team to the Olympics, said he accepted his award on behalf of the athletes who paved the way for him as well as those who had positively impacted on Jamaican life over the past 50 years.
“I look at it that I may be the one getting the honour, but there were others before me who paved the way and there are others in other aspects of Jamaica's life who have done so much over the 50 years, so I am just being the person who is actually receiving the award but I am representing so many others who have done so many other positive things over the past 50 years,” he said.
Quarrie won the 200m gold medal at the Montreal Olympics in 1976 and dominated the Commonwealth Games winning back-to-back sprint doubles in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1970 and Christchurch, New Zealand in 1974. He also led the 4x100m team of Carl Lawson, Errol Stewart and Lennox 'Billie' Miller to the gold medal.