Gail Devers reveals admiration for long-time rival Merlene Ottey. "Always knew she was a great athlete."

By April 25, 2021

Despite the intense rivalry they shared on the track during the 1990s, two-time Olympic 100m champion Gail Devers said she always admired and respected Jamaica’s Merlene Ottey for her talent and longevity.

The rivals met in a number of major finals that were talked about for years, especially the epic 1993 World Championships 100m finals in Stuttgart, Germany and the Olympic Games in Atlanta, three years later.

Prior to those two years, Devers and Ottey met in the finals of the 100m finals at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 when Devers won her first Olympic 100 title in 10.80s. Ottey was fifth in 10.88 in one of the closest finals in history. 0.08 seconds separated the first five places.

That race marked the beginning of a tense rivalry between Devers and Ottey that would only intensify over the next four years.

In Stuttgart, Devers got off to a flyer and was ahead midway the race but she was being reeled in by a fast-closing Ottey, who with her final strides appeared to have caught the diminutive American as they crossed the line together.

Unsure of who won, the finalists stood around looking up at the scoreboard for what seemed like an eternity. Officials eventually announced that Devers had been awarded the victory even though both she and the Jamaican icon were given the same time of 10.82.

Jamaican protested the result but the decision upheld, handing the American.

By 1996, the 36-year-old Ottey was at her fifth Olympics, Devers her third, and once again they came face to face in the 100m finals and once again, history repeated itself. Devers got off to a great start only to be reeled in by Ottey and sure enough, they crossed the finish line together.

Both were timed in 10.94 but like in Stuttgart, the American was given the nod. The circumstances created tensions between the two countries and their athletes. However, Devers said those tensions were simply about competition.

“You just get caught up in ‘this is competition and you got coaches who say we’re going to protest this,” Devers told Ato Boldon on his Athletics Live show on Instagram last week.

She said she had no idea why things turned out the way they did, why it always seemed to come down to her and Ottey.

“It keeps coming up that it’s these two every time. I don’t know why it was always us but we were always willing to go to the wire,” she said.

Devers explained that in the early days' everyone kind of kept to themselves, leaving little to interact with her rivals.

“When we were competing, it was (Irina) Privalova, it was me, it was Gwen Torrence, it was that four that you could not pick who was going to win on that day,” she said.

“And we can’t duck each other, we gotta go, we gotta run, gotta bring you’re A-plus game because they’re bringing their A-game. So with Merlene, I always knew she was a great athlete and I would always tell her ‘You still running, shoot…”

She said that as time passed, they both got the chance to get to know each other and the tensions cooled.

“While you’re competing everybody is in their own camp, you don’t sit there and socialize anyway, but as we got older, going to awards ceremonies or even with social media, we were able to talk to each other,” she said.

“She knows that I have always admired her because I don’t care at what age, if she steps out there now I am concerned. You might want to be worried because if she is in the lane, she is ready to go.”

Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

Related items

  • All set for Saturday's third meet in JAAA/SDF Jubilee Series All set for Saturday's third meet in JAAA/SDF Jubilee Series

    The third meet in the “JAAA/SDF Jubilee series” will be staged this Saturday, May 21, at the National Stadium between 5pm and 7pm. Spectators will not be charged an entry fee.

    These events are designed to assist senior athletes as they prepare for the JAAA National Championships and other international competitions including the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, later this year. The Junior athletes will compete between 2pm and 4pm. 

    Saturday’s meet will see athletes contesting the following events for males and females; long jump, discus, shot put, Sprint hurdles, 100m, 200m 400m, 400m hurdles and an invitational 800m.

    All the athletes will be ranked based on performances this season. The 100m will only accommodate the top 32 ranked athletes, the 400m will see the top 24 and the top 16 will be in the sprint hurdles.

    The 400m hurdles will have the top eight based on entry while the field events will see the top twelve based on entry. 

    Monetary prizes will be awarded in the 400m hurdles for men and women, the 110m hurdles for men, the 200m for men and women and the discus for women.

    The winner of each of the selected six events will get $90,000.00, second place gets $45,000.00, third takes home $30,000.00, fourth $20,000.00 and fifth $15,000.00. 

    In total, each event will offer $200,000.00 in prizes, with $1.2 million being handed out overall for the day, providing the athletes meet a minimum standard. Only Jamaican athletes will benefit from the funds. 

    The last meet in the four-event series will be staged on June 4, 2022.

    Sponsors include the Sports Development Foundation, Puma and Jacden.

     

  • Kemba Nelson takes 100/200m sprint double at PAC 12 Championships Kemba Nelson takes 100/200m sprint double at PAC 12 Championships

    Kemba Nelson took the 100/200m sprint double at the PAC 12 Conference Championships held at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon on Sunday.

  • Alfred, Roswell and Jones score impressive victories at Big 12 Conference Championships Alfred, Roswell and Jones score impressive victories at Big 12 Conference Championships

    Julien Alfred, Demisha Roswell and Johnathan Jones pulled off impressive victories as the Big 12 Conference Championships concluded in Lubbock, Texas on Sunday.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.