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.

 

 

 

 

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.