In Honour Of: Merlene Ottey, her legendary achievements must never be forgotten

By Ricardo Chambers October 21, 2020

I recently had a rather eye-opening conversation with an 18-year old about one of Jamaica’s greatest ever female sprinters Merlene Joyce Ottey.

I would say this young man has a strong working knowledge of sports but especially of Jamaican athletes and their accomplishments.

It, therefore, struck me by surprise when the name Merlene Ottey did not resonate with him, certainly not in the way I would have expected.

It isn’t that he hadn’t heard the name before but the significance of it did not immediately dawn on him, not in the way speaking of a modern star like Usain Bolt or Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce would.  Sadly, I find this of most I speak to from the younger generation.

I will admit when Ottey was in her prime his generation would not have been born but to me, she is such a legendary figure that her legacy of placing Jamaica and the English-speaking Caribbean on the female track and field map must never be forgotten.

And so, I took the opportunity to educate this youngster about Ottey and her stunning career, from becoming the first English-speaking Caribbean female to win an Olympic medal in 1980, to her switch to and subsequent major appearances for Slovenia post the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

I especially focused on some narrow misses for World and Olympic 100 metres gold at the 1993 Stuttgart World Championships and the 1996 Olympics, on both occasions narrowly, and some would say controversially, losing to American Gail Devers.

This young man seemed in awe, as he should be.

“She was cute too,” he said as he watched the 1993 IAAF World Championship 200 metres final when she finally won a global outdoor gold medal.

So many youngsters are unaware of the history and believe Jamaica’s track and field success started at the Beijing Games with Bolt and company.

But since 1948, the world has respected what we have offered in the global track and field space and for 20 years 1980-2000, Ottey stood front and centre as the leading figure not only but especially for women in the English-speaking Caribbean.  

She won nine Olympic medals, including 7 in individual events, the most by any woman in track and field.

She backed that up with 14 World Outdoor medals and 7 World Indoor medals and she still holds the 200m world indoor record at 21.87 seconds.

Just this week, Ottey was again recognised at the National Honours and Awards ceremony on Heroes’ Day, receiving the country’s fourth highest honour, The Order of Jamaica.

This is a well-deserved and timely reminder of the greatness of the woman.

She was dubbed “Bronze Queen” as 15 of her 30 global medals, indoors and out, were of that variety.  She had many narrow misses for gold but Merlene Ottey’s impact in inspiring generations of Caribbean female sprinters is worth honouring and celebrating even to this day.

So, this is in honour of Merlene Ottey.

May we never forget her impact on Jamaica, the Caribbean, and indeed global track and field.  

Related items

  • Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce donates 50 tablets, printer to national online education initiative Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce donates 50 tablets, printer to national online education initiative

    In a time of national crises stemming from the eight-month old global pandemic, two-time Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce continues to come to the rescue of many of those in need.

  • 'That's what we want' - WI coach Simmons pleased with increasing battle to keep places 'That's what we want' - WI coach Simmons pleased with increasing battle to keep places

    Windies head coach Phil Simmons admits to being pleased by increasing pressure placed on batsmen to perform, with competition for spots in the line-up beginning to heat up.

    Recently the duo of Darren Bravo and Shimron Hetmeyer returned to the batting line-up, but there was no room for the out of form Shai Hope, once a staple of the batting order.  With Bravo looking to be in good form on his return to the line-up and some displays of consistency from the likes of Sharmarh Brooks and Roston Chase, Simmons hopes the tussle for places leads to steadier performances in the future.

    “It’s a case where everybody is under pressure.  We are getting more and more of a group of batsmen where everyone is competing for four or five places,” Simmons told members of the media via an online press conference from New Zealand.

    “With the likes of Hetmyer coming back in and Bravo coming back in, after missing the England tour, Shai Hope is not here.  You are getting a group that is fighting for three or four positions in this case,” he added. 

    “So, it is putting pressure on them to perform, that is what we want.  If you perform you will be there and the performance we are talking about is 100s, big 100s that is what we keep singing to the players.”

     

  • 'Bowlers always step up' - WI coach Simmons not bothered by unit's struggles in opening tour match 'Bowlers always step up' - WI coach Simmons not bothered by unit's struggles in opening tour match

    West Indies coach Phil Simmons insisted he was not overly concerned by the struggles of the bowling unit to take wickets in the first practice game last week.

    It was tough going on day one of the first tour match, for a Windies bowling unit that included top strike bowlers Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, and Alzarri Joseph.  Of the trio, Joseph was the only one to take a wicket in the first innings as New Zealand A put on 308 for 3 before declaring.  Gabriel did claim a wicket in the second innings of the drawn match.

    The coach, however, believes the consistent threat of the bowling unit over the past several years speaks for itself and remained more concerned about the team's batting, which has been far less assured during the same time period.

    “Over the years we have seen that the bowling has been our strength,” Simmons told members of the media from New Zealand on Tuesday.

    “If in these two matches, the one that’s gone and the one tomorrow, the batsmen can get into form and get into the line that we want them to, I’m not worried about the bowlers.  The bowlers are always up to the task in the Test matches for a few years now,” he added.

    Led by a century from returning batsman Darren Bravo the West Indies did put in a solid performance with the bat after scoring 366 in their first innings.

     

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.