Merlene Ottey

Merlene Ottey

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Merlene Ottey
Height 5'9" (175 cm)
Weight 137 lbs (62 kg)
Nationality Jamaica, Slovenia
PR 100 - 10.74 (1996); 200 - 21.64 (1991); 400 - 51.12 (1983)
Born May 10, 1960 at Cold Spring, Hanover, Jamaica
College Univ of Nebraska, Lincoln
Club AD Mass Ljubljana

Merlene Joyce Ottey-Page (1960-) is a Jamaican sprinter who subsequently competes for Slovenia. She has won 3 silver and (5 or perhaps 6) bronze Olympic medals, the most by any woman in Olympic history. [1] Through 2004, she competed in seven Olympic Games, consecutively from 1980-2004.

Ottey holds the record for being the oldest track medalist ever, for running the fastest Women's Indoor 200 metres (in 21.87 seconds). [1], and for having the most women's World Championships medals (fourteen) [2]. Her career achievements and longevity have led to her being called the "Queen of the Track".


Running career

Ottey's mother introduced her to the sport and 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 United States, 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, Merlene 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 200m, and silver medal in the 100m. 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.

She has never won an Olympic gold medal, but lost by as little as a thousandth of a second to Gail Devers in the 100 m in 1996 and by a hundredth of a second on numerous occasions to different athletes.

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 IAAFfrom competing in the upcoming twenty-seventh Olympiad in Sydney, Australia in 2000. She also pulled out of World Championships in Seville, Spain.

Ottey, however, fought to clear her name, asserting that, that charge was a "terrible mistake", and that she was totally innocent of knowingly taking steroids.[2] 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.[3]

In Jamaica, Ottery placed fourth at the 2000 National Senior Trials prior to selection for the Olympics. 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 400m Olympian and championship medallist Gregory Haughton lead the so-called "Games Village" protest 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 team. [3].

At the 2000 Olympics, Ottey finished fourth in the 100 m she had fought to participate in, beaten from a medal by fellow Jamaican sprinter Tayna Lawrence. The race was won by Marion Jones who registered 10.75 seconds, who was 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 medallist Lawrence, teenager and newcomer Veronica Campbell, and Beverly MacDonald — was anchored by Ottey to a silver medal. This medal gave Ottey her eighth medal, the most ever for a female athlete. However, In 2007 when American athlete Marion Jones admitted to steroid use during and after the Sydney Olympics, she was stripped of her medals, and so Ottey may be awarded the bronze medal, which would bring her Olympic medal total to nine.

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." [4]


In 1998 Ottey moved to Slovenia, and began training with Slovene coach Srdjan Djordjevic although 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 0.028 seconds to reach her eighth Olympic Games, aged 48 in 2008.

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 four on the 100 meter list.
  • Ottey has won a record number of medals at the indoor championships —six.
  • Ottey is the first female athlete to run 60 meters under seven seconds — and 200 metres Indoor under 22 seconds. She has also clocked the fastest 100 and 200 meters in the same day.
  • Ottey has run 100 metres under eleven seconds— 67 times.
  • 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 is the fastest in the world among all female athletes over 30. She has recorded the fastest time for any female athlete at age 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, and age 40.
  • 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 2000, 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.
  • Ottey is also one of two athletes to win twenty medals at the Olympic Games and the World Championships (combined).
  • Ottey holds the record for running the fastest women's Indoor 200 metres, in 21.87 seconds.
  • In five World Championships, Ottey has so far won thirteen medals: three gold, four silver and six bronze medals, while at the Olympics she has earned two silver and five 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.
Meet 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 100m Bronze (pending), 4 x 100 m relay Silver

Ottey has the most women's World Championships medals with fourteen:

Meet Medals
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


External links


  3. "Ottey Ban Lifted: Test Was Faulty", New York Times, July 4, 2000.

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