Jamaica’s track and field icon Merlene Ottey was among six sports personalities honoured for their contribution to sports at today’s Ceremony of Investiture and Presentation of National Honours and Awards that were held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Along with Ottey, Olympian Deon Hemmings-McCatty, legendary jockey Emilio Rodriquez, as well as footballers Howard Bell and Khadijah Shaw were also awarded. Cedella Marley, daughter of global reggae icon Cedella Marley was also honoured for her work in providing critical support for the national women’s football programme.

Ottey, who turned 60 in May, previously held the Order of Distinction, for her sterling representation of Jamaica at the international level for more than two decades winning nine Olympic medals and 14 World Championship medals including gold medals in 1991, 1993 and 1995.

She was conferred with the Order of Jamaica.

The 52-year-old Hemmings-McCatty was also upgraded from the Order of Distinction, Officer Class to Order of Distinction Commander Class, in recognition for her contribution to Jamaica’s track and field legacy.

In 1996, Hemmings became the first woman from the English-speaking Caribbean to win an Olympic gold medal when she won the 400m hurdles at the Atlanta Olympic Games in an Olympic record 52.82s.

Khadija Shaw, Jamaica’s leading goalscorer across genders, led Jamaica to its first ever qualification to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the first Caribbean nation to do so. She was awarded the Order of Jamaica, Officer Class.

Jamaica’s Women’s team might not have qualified for the World Cup had it not been for Cedella Marley, who, through several fundraising efforts and other forms of support. She was also awarded the Order of Distinction, Officer Class for her yeoman work.

Howard ‘Juicy’ Bell has dedicated three decades of his life serving Jamaica as a member and captain of Jamaica’s national senior football team. He has also served as a manager for the national team and is currently an administrator employed by the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF).

He also received the rank of Order of Distinction, Officer Class.

Also receiving the Order of Distinction, Officer Class was the legendary jockey, four-time national champion Emilio ‘Bimbo’ Rodriquez, who won more than a dozen classic races during his riding career that spanned decades.

 

 

 

 

The Caribbean’s first female Olympic champion is about to receive a national honour from the Government of Jamaica.

As Jamaica celebrated its 58th year of Independence, her outstanding servants from various fields were announced to receive national recognition come Heroes’ Day October 19.

Twenty four years since shrugging off the challenge of Americans Kim Batten and Tonja Buford-Bailey in Atlanta, Hemmings-McCatty is finally receiving her due.

She is to be conferred with the nation’s fifth highest honor, the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander Class.

We could debate whether this honour is a number of years too late or even if Hemmings-McCatty should be receiving a higher accolade.

But for now, we say, well deserved.

Hemmings-McCatty was no ordinary servant of Jamaica’s track and field. She represented the country at three Olympic Games and won three medals; 2 in the 400 metres hurdles and one in the mile relay.

Since 1980, track and field enthusiasts across Jamaica, the Caribbean and the world felt that Merlene Ottey would be the nation’s first female Olympic Gold medallist.

Ottey, Jamaica’s first female world champion had been a consistent force in major events and therefore that feeling was not without a strong base.

In fact, at the 1996 Games, Ottey was denied achieving that feat by only thousandths of a second when victory in the Women’s 100 metres was awarded to American Gail Devers.

Ironically Hemmings-McCatty’s quest for Gold started the following day, July 28 and culminated on July 31.

Who can forget the voice of American commentator Carol Lewis belting, “… here comes Kim Batten.”

Batten, the world record holder at the time, was indeed making a strong push, but that season Hemmings-McCatty’s improved hurdling technique ensured there were no errors on her part as she smoothly maneuvered her way to victory, almost unbothered by the Americans who had sandwiched her.

Arms aloft as she crossed the line, the then 27-year-old, broke the Olympic record she had set in the semi-finals and became the first woman to run sub-53 seconds in the 400 metres hurdles in consecutive races.

While Atlanta 1996 was the crowning moment of her 11-year senior international career, Hemmings-McCatty’s legacy goes way beyond that.

At the Sydney 2000 Games, she overcame a period of injuries and backed up her “96 Gold with a silver-medal performance.

She also won silver as part of the country’s 4x400 relay team.

She was also a consistent force at the IAAF World Championships, winning four medals, 3 individual and a mile relay Gold, a first for the country, achieved at the 2001 championships in Edmonton, Canada. 

Since her retirement at the end of the 2002 season, she has given back to the sport in several ways, including serving as team manager for national teams and currently organises a development meet, specifically for schools in the Northern region, including in St Ann where she was born.

Not bad for a girl who was given a university scholarship “as part of a package deal” after her high school years ended at Vere Technical.

The record shows she is one of the best to have done it, and while, for whatever reason, the land of wood and water has taken some time to officially acknowledge that fact, we salute her and say thank you for being one of the best firsts to grace this blessed land.

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