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.  

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.

 

 

 

 

Jamaica’s track and field icons Merlene Ottey and Deon Hemmings McCatty, as well as female football star Khadija Shaw and legendary jockey Emilio Rodriquez, are among several sporting personalities, who are to receive national honours in October.

Merlene Ottey’s long-standing record over 150m was broken by American Brianna Rollins-McNeal on Monday at the AP Ranch High-Performance Invitational in Fort Worth, Texas.

Wonderful female athletes from the Caribbean can be found all over, however, today we will seek to come up with the BestXI of them.

The sports desk at SportsMax.tv can never agree on anything, but today we managed to come up with an XI that while not in order of the most significant, provides a list of women, who have given sport in the region, some of its greatest moments. Just like we could not agree on some of the names that should be included or excluded, we are sure you guys have different opinions on this list. Write your list or your comments in any of the comments sections on our social media pages. Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib), Instagram (sportsmax_tv), and Facebook (@SportsMax).

 

BestXI

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (Jamaica)

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is a legend of women’s sprinting, becoming the first woman to win four gold medals over the course of four World Championships. She was also the first Caribbean woman to win 100-metre gold at the Olympics when she claimed the title in Beijing, China in 2008. Breaking records has become a constant in her life, as in 2019 she became the oldest woman to win the 100m at a World Championships. In 2013, she became the first sprinter to win gold medals in the 100, 200 and 4x100 metres at the same World Championships.

Veronica Campbell-Brown (Jamaica)

Veronica Campbell-Brown is an eight-time Olympic medallist. Three of those medals are gold. In 2008, she became the second woman to win back-to-back Olympic titles over 200 metres.  With personal bests of 10.76  and 21.74 over the 100m and 200m, respectively, VCB is one of the fastest women of all time. Her World Championships credentials are also impressive, claiming three gold, seven silver and a bronze medal over the course of a fantastic career that has spanned two decades.

Elaine Thompson-Herah (Jamaica)

Elaine Thompson-Herah is the heir apparent to the throne of Jamaican female sprinting and many believe that had it not been for injuries, she would have already been firmly seated on that throne. Nonetheless, her resume is impressive, having claimed the 100 and 200-metre gold medals at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and a silver medal at the 2015 World Championships where she came to prominence courtesy of a memorable battle with Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers. In a stirring battle, the two raced to the line with Schippers just edging the Jamaican, who clocked a personal best 21.66, the fifth-fastest time in history. Thompson's personal best of 10.70, is the joint fourth-fastest time in history and a Jamaican national record she shares with Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

Shaunae Miller-Uibo (Bahamas)

Shaunae Miller-Uibo famously dove over the line in beat United States legend, Alyson Felix in the 2016 Olympics 400-metre final. She has also mined two silver medals in 2015 and 2019 over the distance at World Championships and earned a bronze medal in the event in 2017. Miller-Uibo holds The Bahamas’ national record over 400m (48.37), the sixth-fastest time in history, and 200 metres (21.74).  Unofficially, Miller-Uibo is also the fastest woman of all time in the 200-metres straight and the 300-metres indoor events.

Merlene Ottey (Jamaica)

For a long time, Merlene Ottey was Jamaica’s most cherished sprinter, courtesy of her long and illustrious career. Along the way, she earned three silver and six bronze medals at the Olympic Games. She is also a three-time World Champion and has also won four silver and seven bronze medals as well. Those, combined with the three gold, two silver and the two bronze medals she won at the World Indoor Championships, bring her global medal haul to a remarkable 30. She still remains the only woman to break 22 seconds indoors and boasts personal bests of 10.74 and 21.64 over the 100m and 200m, respectively.

Deon Hemmings (Jamaica)

Deon Hemmings was the first Jamaican woman to win an Olympic gold medal when she blew away the dual challenge of the United States’ Kim Batten and Tonja Buford to win the 400-metres hurdles title at the Atlanta Games in 1996. She won in 52.82, which was an Olympic record and still one of the fastest times ever run. During her stellar career, Hemmings also won two silver medals at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. In between, Hemmings was second at the World Championships in Athens in 1997, and third in Seville two years later. She also claimed a bronze medal at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Melaine Walker (Jamaica)

Melaine Walker was the queen of the 400m hurdles in 2008 and 2009 when she won the IAAF World Athletics Final in Thessaloniki, Greece.  In Beijing in 2008, Walker won the 400 metres hurdles in an Olympic record 52.64. She would claim her first World Athletics Final title later that year, winning in 54.06 before heading to the World Championships in 2009 to run 52.42, then the second-fastest time in history. For her achievements in 2008, Walker was named Jamaican Sportswoman of the Year along with another legend of track and field, Veronica-Campbell-Brown.

Ana Quirot (Cuba)

Cuba’s Ana Fidelia Quirot Moré is regarded as one of the finest 800-metre athletes of all time. The claim is not without merit, as despite never winning an Olympic Gold, she had been dominant throughout her career. That career was not without accolades though, as she mined bronze in the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 before going one better in Atlanta four years later. That 1996 Olympic silver lay in between Gold medals at the 1995 Gothenburg World Championships and the Athens equivalent in 1997. Before that, she had earned a silver at the Tokyo World Championships in 1991.  She was also a four-time gold medallist at the Pan American Games and at the Central American and Caribbean Games while winning gold over 400 and 800 metres at the World Cup in Barcelona in 1989. In 1988, Quirot was favoured to win Olympic Gold after going that season unbeaten, inclusive of beating her main rivals Olympic champion East Germany’s Sigrun Wodars and her teammate silver medallist Christine Watchel. Unfortunately, politics reared its ugly head and Cuba would end up boycotting the 1988 Olympic Games. Quirot would never recover.

Nicolette Fernandes (Guyana)

Nicolette Fernandes has been the flagbearer for Guyana and the Caribbean in women’s squash for almost 20 years. She was a bronze medallist at the Central America and Caribbean Games all the way back in 2002 before claiming gold, the country’s only medal four years later. She would win a bronze in 2010 while claiming gold at the South American Games that same year. She won a bronze medal in Guadalajara at the Pan American Games in 2011. Fernandes’ career was not without its setbacks though. In 2007, a serious knee injury put the squash ace out for almost two years, but she returned with a bang in 2009, earning the Guyanese National Sports Commission’s Sportswoman of the year award. Outside of her achievements for Guyana, Fernandes has not won any of the four majors, the World Open, British Open, hong Kong Open or Qatar Classic, but she has won a Wispa Tour Series and achieved a world ranking as high as 19.

Tonique Williams-Darling (Bahamas)

Tonique Williams Darling makes our list for her exploits between 2004 and 2006. In that period, the then 28-year-old, won the Olympics in Athens, Greece, before going on to do the same at the Helsinki World Championships in 2005. In 2004, she also earned a silver medal at the World Indoor Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

Pauline Davis-Thompson (Bahamas)

Another Bahamian, Pauline Davis, also makes the list because of her accolades but also because of her sheer longevity. Davis-Thompson has been to five Olympic Games and did not win her first medal until her fourth appearance when she was part of a silver-medal winning 4x100-metre team at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Four years later, in Sydney, Davis-Thompson went one better with her 4x100-metre team and at 34 years old, hit the tape first in the 200 metres to cap off her career in style. Five years earlier, Davis-Thompson had finished second in the 400 metres at the World Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden, showing an amazing range that would be hard to replicate. She also earned bronze and silver medals at the World Indoor Championships in 1995 and 1999.

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