Merlene Ottey

Merlene Ottey
Medal record
Merlene Ottey
Women’s Athletics
Competitor for  Jamaica
Olympic Games
Silver 1996 Atlanta 100 m
Silver 1996 Atlanta 200 m
Silver 2000 Sydney 4x100 m relay
Bronze 1980 Moscow 200 m
Bronze 1984 Los Angeles 100 m
Bronze 1984 Los Angeles 200 m
Bronze 1992 Barcelona 200 m
Bronze 1996 Atlanta 4x100 m relay
Bronze 2000 Sydney 100 m
World Championships
Gold 1991 Tokyo 4x100 m relay
Gold 1993 Stuttgart 200 m
Gold 1995 Gothenburg 200 m
Silver 1983 Helsinki 200 m
Silver 1993 Stuttgart 100 m
Silver 1995 Gothenburg 100 m
Silver 1995 Gothenburg 4x100 m relay
Bronze 1983 Helsinki 4x100 m relay
Bronze 1987 Rome 100 m
Bronze 1987 Rome 200 m
Bronze 1991 Tokyo 100 m
Bronze 1991 Tokyo 200 m
Bronze 1993 Stuttgart 4x100 m relay
Bronze 1997 Athens 200 m
World Indoor Championships
Gold 1989 Budapest 200 m
Gold 1991 Seville 200 m
Gold 1995 Barcelona 60 m
Silver 1987 Indianapolis 200 m
Silver 1991 Seville 60 m
Bronze 1989 Budapest 60 m
Commonwealth Games
Gold 1982 Brisbane 200 m
Gold 1990 Auckland 200 m
Gold 1990 Auckland 100 m
Silver 1982 Brisbane 100 m

Merlene Joyce Ottey (born May 10, 1960), is a Jamaican-born Slovenian track athlete. Ottey began her career representing Jamaica, but since 2002, has represented Slovenia, where she now resides. She is ranked fourth on the all-time list over 60 metres (indoor), sixth on the all-time list over 100 metres and third on the all-time list over 200 metres.

Ottey has had the longest career as a top level international sprinter, which apparently has not yet concluded as she anchored the Slovenian 4x100 relay at the 2010 European Athletics Championships at the age of 50.[1][2] She holds the record for the most Olympic appearances (seven) of any track and field athlete, and for winning the largest number of women's World Championships medals (fourteen).[3] Her career achievements and longevity have led to her being called the "Queen of the Track". Her proclivity for earning bronze medals in major championships also earned her the title of "Bronze Queen" in track circles.[4]


Life and sprinting career

Merlene Ottey was born to Hubert and Joan Ottey in Cold Spring, Hanover, Jamaica. She was introduced to the sport by her mother, who bought her a manual on track and field. In her early school years in the 1970s, Ottey attended Gurneys Mount and Pondside Schools before graduating from Ruseas and Vere Technical high schools. There she frequently competed barefoot in local races.

Ottey's inspiration came from listening to the track and field broadcast from the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, where Donald Quarrie ran in the sprint finals. Her athletics career took off when she moved to the U.S., and attended the University of Nebraska in 1979, where she joined the track team. She represented Jamaica in the 1979 Pan American Games, winning a bronze medal in the 200 m. She graduated from university with a Bachelor of Arts Degree, and married fellow athlete Nathaniel Page in 1984 and briefly used the name Merlene Ottey-Page. The couple later divorced.

In the 1980 Moscow games, Ottey became the first female English speaking Caribbean athlete to win an Olympic medal. Back in Jamaica, she was awarded an Officer of the Order of Nation, and the Order of Distinction for ‘services in the field of sport’.

In the 1982 Commonwealth Games, Ottey won a gold medal in the 200 m, and silver medal in the 100 m. Nearly a decade later, in the 1990 Commonwealth Games, she won gold in both events. Ottey was named Ambassador of Jamaica after her gold medal win in the 1993 world championships. She has also been named Jamaican Sportswoman of the year 15 times between 1979 and 1997.

Throughout her career, she has won nine Olympic medals, the most by any woman in track and field history [1][dead link]. These include three silver and six bronze medals. She has never won an Olympic gold medal, but lost by five thousandths of a second to Gail Devers in the 100 m Final at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta when they both recorded the same time of 10.94 seconds.[5] This was not her closest finish to Devers - she recorded a time of 10.812 seconds to Devers' 10.811 seconds in the 1993 World Championships in Stuttgart - still the closest finish at an international athletics meet.[6]

Her seven Olympic appearances from 1980 to 2004 are the most by any Track & Field athlete. The next highest is six, by javelin thrower and heptathlete Tessa Sanderson, discus thrower Lia Manoliu, and middle-distance runners Maria Mutola and João N'Tyamba.

She won 14 World Championship medals between 1983 to 1997 —more than any other athlete, male or female — however, her failure to win many golds in major international competitions earned her the nickname "the Bronze Queen" in racing circles. She has won a total of three gold, three silver and eight bronze medals in the 4 x 100 m relay, the 100-m, and 200-m races. Ottey was appointed an Ambassador at Large by the Jamaican government in 1993.


In 1999, during a meet in Lucerne, Switzerland, a urine sample submitted had returned positive for the banned anabolic steroid nandrolone. Her 'B' sample also contained higher than normal levels of the substance. Ottey was subsequently banned by the IAAF from competing in the World Championships in Seville, Spain.

Ottey fought to clear her name, asserting that charge was a "terrible mistake", and that she was innocent of knowingly taking steroids.[7] In the summer of 2000, Ottey was cleared of all charges by the IAAF and Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association, and the laboratory who had tested her sample came under severe criticism.[citation needed]

In Jamaica, at the National Senior Trials prior to selection for the Olympics, Ottey placed a disappointing fourth. According to the rules of the Jamaica Amateur Athletics Association (JAAA), only athletes who had finished in the top three at the trials were eligible to run at the Olympics; she was only qualified to run on the 4 x 100 m relay team. Ottey asked that she be substituted for another team member, a courtesy that had been extended to others in the past. The JAAA's decision to replace Peta-Gaye Dowdie with Ottey caused widespread controversy. Dowdie's team members and many Jamaicans believed that Ottey had bullied her way onto the team. She was construed as an aging icon trying to retain power by usurping the place of a younger and equally worthy athlete. Jamaican 400 m Olympian and championship medallist Gregory Haughton lead the notorious "Games Village" protests to oust Ottey, which made international headlines. The protest ended when The International Olympic Committee (IOC) threatened to throw the Jamaicans out of the Games if the team managers were not able to control their charges.[8]

At the 2000 Olympics, Ottey finished fourth in the 100 m, beaten from a medal by fellow Jamaican sprinter Tayna Lawrence. The race was won by Marion Jones who registered 10.75 seconds, followed by Ekaterini Thanou of Greece in 11.12 seconds. Lawrence posted 11.18 seconds to Ottey 11.19 seconds. In the 4×100 relay, the Jamaican team — bronze medalist Lawrence, teenager and newcomer Veronica Campbell, and Beverly McDonald — was anchored by Ottey to a silver medal. This medal gave Ottey her eighth medal, the most ever for a female athlete. (Nine years later, Ottey's fourth place was retroactively promoted to third - giving Ottey her ninth medal - and Lawrence to second when Jones was stripped of her medals for steroid abuse.)

Due to the controversy, Ottey decided that "after Sydney I said I wasn't going to run another race for Jamaica ... because I felt like the Jamaicans were trying to push me out of the sport and I really needed to prove my point, that I might be 40 but I can still run." [9]


In 1998 Ottey moved to Slovenia, and began training with Slovene coach Srdjan Djordjevic. There she was still representing Jamaica. However, in May 2002, she became a Slovenian citizen, and now resides in Ljubljana, where she represents her new country in international events.

Ottey competed for Slovenia in the 100 meters at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, where she reached the semifinals. At age 46, she competed in the 2006 European Championships in Athletics. She finished fourth in the semi-finals of the 100 metres but did not qualify for the final, which was won by Belgium's Kim Gevaert.

Ottey failed by 0.28 seconds to reach her eighth Olympic Games, aged 48 in 2008. In spite of this, two years later she qualified for the Slovenian 4 x 100 metre relay squad at the 2010 European Athletics Championships where she became the oldest athlete ever to participate in the history of the European championships.[10]

Records and achievements

  • Ottey ranks at number three on the list of the top ten all time athletes on the 200 meters - women, and number six on the 100 meter list.
  • Ottey is the first female athlete to run 60 meters under seven seconds — and 200 metres under 22 seconds [ indoors]. She has also clocked the fastest 100 and 200 meters in the same day.
  • Ottey has run 100 metres under eleven seconds— 67 times ( plus 9 wind-assisted ) a record among female sprinters.
  • Ottey has 57 consecutive wins in 100 meters—the most consecutive wins over 100 meters for a female, and 34 consecutive wins at 200 meters.
  • Ottey has recorded the fastest 100 metres time for any female athlete at age 30, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, and age 40. The exception is age 31 as Carmelita Jeter ran 10.70sec in June 2011 to improve on Ottey's 10.79 at that age.
  • Ottey holds the official World Masters Athletics world records in the 100 m and 200 m for the age groups W35 ( 100- 10.74 in 1996, 200- 21.93 in 1995 ) W40 ( 100- 10.99 in 2000, 200- 22.74 in 2004 ) W45 ( 100- 11.34 in 2006, 200- 23.82 in 2006 ) W50 ( 100- 11.67 in 2010, 200 24.33 in 2010 ).[11]
  • Ottey is the first from the Western Hemisphere (outside the USA) to win two individual medals at the same games.
  • At the 1995 World Championships, Ottey became the oldest ever female gold medallist when she won the 200 m at age 35 years 92 days. At the 1997 World Championships in Athens, she became the oldest female medallist ever at 37 years 90 days, when she won the bronze medal. In the 2000 Olympics, at age 40, Ottey became the oldest track and field medalist when she anchored the Jamaican women's 4×100 meters to a silver medal. With the disqualification of Marion Jones, she was awarded the bronze medal in the 100 metres, making her the oldest individual medalist.
  • Ottey is also one of only two athletes to win twenty medals at the Olympic Games and the World Championships (combined) the other is Carl Lewis.
  • Ottey holds the record for running the fastest women's Indoor 200 metres, in 21.87 seconds. This record has now stood for 18 years and remains the only sub 22sec clocking by a woman indoors.
  • In six World Championships competing for Jamaica, Ottey has won fourteen medals: three gold, four silver and seven bronze medals, while at the Olympics she has earned three silver and six bronze medals.
  • Ottey was the first female Caribbean athlete to win an Olympic medal.
  • Ottey has won more Olympic medals than any other female athlete in the Western Hemisphere.
  • Ottey's Olympics Medals:
    • Moscow 1980 200 m Bronze
    • Los Angeles 1984 100 m & 200 m Bronze
    • Barcelona 1992 200 m Bronze
    • Atlanta 1996 100 m & 200 m Silver & 4 x 100 m relay Bronze
    • Sydney 2000 4 x 100 m relay Silver & 100 m Bronze (the Bronze awarded after American Marion Jones had her gold medal revoked by the IOC in 2009)
  • Ottey has the most World Championships medals ( male or female ) with fourteen:
    • Helsinki 1983 200 m Silver & 4 x 100 m relay Bronze
    • Rome 1987 100 m & 200 m Bronze
    • Tokyo 1991 100 m & 200 m Bronze & 4 x 100 m relay Gold
    • Stuttgart 1993 100 m Silver & 200 m Gold & 4 x 100 m relay Bronze
    • Gothenburg 1995 100 m Silver & 200 m Gold & 4 x 100 m relay Silver
    • Athens 1997 200 m Bronze

See also


  1. ^ "Merlene Ottey becomes oldest athlete in Euro championships". Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  2. ^ Chandler, Helen (31 July 2010). "Merlene Ottey hopes age will be no barrier in the long run". The Guardian (London). 
  3. ^ Statistics book, Berlin 2009. IAAF. Retrieved on 2009-08-13.
  4. ^ Washington Post August 20, 2004
  5. ^ Rowbottom, Mike (29 July 1996). "Devers gives the old shoulder to Ottey". The Independent (London). Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  6. ^ "Draft Front inside & p001 ­ 1" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  7. ^ "Ottey cleared of drug charge". BBC News, Sport. 15 November 1999. Retrieved 4 August 2009. 
  8. ^ Agostinho Pinnock (23 August 2005). "Merlene Ottey - no longer going for gold?". Jamaica Observer, newspaper. Archived from the original on October 17, 2007. Retrieved 4 August 2009. 
  9. ^ "Interview: Merlene Ottey". Reuters. 13 August 2004. Retrieved 4 August 2009. 
  10. ^ Merlene Ottey races in Barcelona at 50 years of age. Barcelona 2010 official site. Retrieved on 2010-07-29.
  11. ^ World Masters Athletics World Records

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Cuba Ana Fidelia Quirot
Women's Track & Field Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
Germany Heike Henkel
Preceded by
Germany Steffi Graf
United Press International
Athlete of the Year

Succeeded by
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Monica Seles
Sporting positions
Preceded by
United States Dawn Sowell
Women's 200 m Best Year Performance
Succeeded by
United States Gwen Torrence
Preceded by
United States Gwen Torrence
Women's 200 m Best Year Performance
Succeeded by
United States Gwen Torrence

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