Merlene Ottey

Merlene Ottey

Ottey in 2011
Personal information
Full name Merlene Joyce Ottey-Page
Born (1960-05-10) 10 May 1960
Cold Spring, Hanover, Jamaica
Height 175 cm (5 ft 9 in)[1]
Weight 62 kg (137 lb)
Country Jamaica & Slovenia
Sport Athletics

Merlene Joyce Ottey OD (born 10 May 1960) is a Jamaican-born Slovene track and field sprinter. Ottey began her career representing Jamaica, before representing Slovenia from 2002–12. She is ranked fourth on the all-time list over 60 metres (indoor), sixth on the all-time list over 100 metres and fourth on the all-time list over 200 metres. Her world indoor record for 200 metres of 21.87 seconds, set in 1993, still stands (as of 2016).

Ottey has had the longest career as a top level international sprinter, concluding with her anchoring the Slovene 4 × 100 m relay team at the 2012 European Championships at the age of 52.[2][3] A nine-time Olympic medallist, she holds the record for the most Olympic appearances (seven) of any track and field athlete and for winning the largest number of World Championships medals (fourteen).[4] 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.[5]

Ottey was formerly married to the American high jumper and 400 m hurdler Nat Page and was known as Merlene Ottey-Page during the mid-eighties.[6]

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 US 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 13 times between 1979 and 1995.

Throughout her career, she has won nine Olympic medals, which ties with Allyson Felix for the most by any woman in track and field history . 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.[7] 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.[8]

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 and 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.[9] In the summer of 2000, Ottey was cleared of all charges by the Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association, the IAAF lifted its two-year ban, after the CAS dismissed the case; it is important to note the Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed the case because the retesting was not completed in the allotted time.

In Jamaica, at the National Senior Trials before 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.[10]

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's 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."[11]


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

Ottey competed for Slovenia in the 100 metres 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 fifth in the semi-finals of the 100 metres and 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.[12]

At the age of 52, Ottey competed in the 4x100 meters relay at the 2012 European Athletics Championships.[13] The Slovenian team only ranked No. 22 in the world before the 2012 Olympics[14] and only the top 16 teams got to run.

Records and achievements

International competitions

Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
Representing  Jamaica
1978 CAC Junior Championships (U-20) Xalapa, Mexico 3rd 200 m 25.34s A
1st 4x100 m relay 47.12s A
2nd 4x400 m relay 3:58.8 A
1979 CARIFTA Games (U-20) Kingston, Jamaica 2nd 100 m 11.87s
2nd 200 m 24.05s
2nd 4x100 m relay 46.47s
Pan American Games San Juan, Puerto Rico 3rd 200 m 22.79w
1980 Olympic Games Moscow, Soviet Union 3rd 200 m 22.20
6th 4x100 m 43.19
heats 4x400 m 3.31.5
1982 Commonwealth Games Brisbane, Australia 2nd 100m 11.03
1st 200 m 22.19w
3rd 4x100 m 43.69
1983 World Championships Helsinki, Finland 4th 100 m 11.19
2nd 200 m 22.13
3rd 4x100 m 42.73
1984 Olympic Games Los Angeles, United States 3rd 100 m 11.16
3rd 200 m 22.09
8th 4x100 m 53.54
1987 World Indoor Championships Indianapolis, United States 4th 60 m 7.13
2nd 200m 22.66
World Championships Rome, Italy 3rd 100 m 11.04
3rd 200 m 22.06
1988 Olympic Games Seoul, South Korea 100m DNS SF
4th 200 m 21.99
4x100 m DNS F
1989 World Indoor Championships Budapest, Hungary 3rd 60 m 7.10
1st 200 m 22.34
1990 Commonwealth Games Auckland, New Zealand 1st 100 m 11.02w
1st 200 m 22.76
1991 World Indoor Championships Seville, Spain 2nd 60 m 7.08
1st 200 m 22.24
World Championships Tokyo, Japan 3rd 100m 11.06
3rd 200 m 22.21
1st 4x100 m 41.94
1992 Olympic Games Barcelona, Spain 5th 100 m 10.88
3rd 200 m 22.09
4x100 m DNF
1993 World Championships Stuttgart, Germany 2nd 100 m 10.82
1st 200 m 21.98
3rd 4x100 m 41.94
1994 World Cup London, United Kingdom 1st 200 m 22.23
1995 World Indoor Championships Barcelona, Spain 1st 60 m 6.97
World Championships Gothenburg, Sweden 2nd 100 m 10.94
1st 200m 22.12
2nd 4x100 m 42.25
1996 Olympic Games Atlanta, United States 2nd 100 m 10.94
2nd 200 m 22.24
3rd 4x100 m 42.24
1997 World Championships Athens, Greece 7th 100 m 11.29
3rd 200 m 22.40
2000 Olympic Games Sydney, Australia 3rd 100 m 11.19
2nd 4x100 m 42.13
Representing  Slovenia
2003 World Indoor Championships Birmingham, United Kingdom 3rd 60 m 7.20
World Championships Paris, France semi-finals 100 m 11.26
quarters 200 m 23.22
heats 4x100 m DISQ
2004 World Indoor Championships Budapest, Hungary semi-finals 60 m 7.21
Olympic Games Athens, Greece semi-finals 100 m 11.21
semi-finals 200 m DNF
2006 European Championships Gothenburg, Sweden semi-finals 100 m 11.44
2007 European Indoor Championships Birmingham, United Kingdom heats 60 m 7.33
World Championships Osaka, Japan heats 100 m 11.64
2010 European Championships Barcelona, Spain heats 4x100 m 44.30
2012 European Championships Helsinki, Finland heats 4x100 m 44.28

See also


  1. "Merlene Ottey-Page". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  2. "Merlene Ottey becomes oldest athlete in Euro championships". Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  3. Chandler, Helen (31 July 2010). "Merlene Ottey hopes age will be no barrier in the long run". The Guardian. London.
  4. Statistics book, Berlin 2009. IAAF. Retrieved on 13 August 2009.
  5. Washington Post 20 August 2004
  7. Rowbottom, Mike (29 July 1996). "Devers gives the old shoulder to Ottey". The Independent. London. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  8. "Draft Front inside & p001 1" (PDF). Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  9. "Ottey cleared of drug charge". BBC News, Sport. 15 November 1999. Retrieved 4 August 2009.
  10. Agostinho Pinnock (23 August 2005). "Merlene Ottey – no longer going for gold?". Jamaica Observer, newspaper. Archived from the original on 17 October 2007. Retrieved 4 August 2009.
  11. "Interview: Merlene Ottey". Reuters. 13 August 2004. Retrieved 4 August 2009.
  12. Merlene Ottey races in Barcelona at 50 years of age. Barcelona 2010 official site. Retrieved on 29 July 2010.
  13. "52-y-o Ottey for Helsinki champs". Retrieved 20 June 2012.
  15. World Masters Athletics World Records
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Merlene Ottey.
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Women's 200 m Indoor World Record Holder
13 February 1993 – present
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Awards and achievements
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Olympic Games
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Flagbearer for  Jamaica
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Barcelona 1992
Succeeded by
Juliet Cuthbert
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