JIS News

Jamaica’s most decorated female athlete, Merlene Joyce Ottey, has once again been honoured by the government for 20 years of outstanding achievement on the track.
An eight-foot, 700 pounds bronze statue of the world’s most prolific and durable female sprinter, was unveiled yesterday (Dec. 28) at the National Stadium by Prime Minister P.J. Patterson.
The statue, which was sculpted by Basil Watson, depicts Ottey with her right hand stretched to the sky. It was commissioned by the National Commission on Sports through the Urban Development Corporation (UDC).
In addressing the ceremony, Prime Minister Patterson, who is the chairman of the National Commission on Sports, informed that the decision to erect and unveil the statue of Jamaica’s sprint queen had been long in coming.
“Your life is one of legendary endurance,” he said to Ottey. “From Moscow to Sydney, you showed the world that Jamaica is a force to be reckoned with in athletics. You have always displayed determination and grit. Your success in track and field is unparalleled,” the Prime Minister noted.
He said that even though Ottey now resided outside of Jamaica, “we know we can’t take the Jamaican out of you. No matter where you roam this will always be your home. We love you and we shall always cherish everything that you achieved while emblazoned in the black, green and gold”.
Ottey last competed for Jamaica at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and since then has attained citizenship to reside in the central European country of Slovenia and presently competes for that country.
She competed for Jamaica at the senior level from 1980 to 2000, during which time she won several medals for Jamaica in Olympic and world championship events, including a gold medal in the 200 metres at the 1991 Tokyo World Athletics Championships in Japan.
Minister of Local Government, Community Development and Sports, Portia Simpson Miller, also paid tribute to the Jamaican track legend for her longevity in the sport.
“Age is just a number. She redefines what a person over 40 can do in sports today. Merlene is one of the greatest Jamaican athletes of all time and undoubtedly the greatest Jamaican female athlete of all time,” Minister Simpson Miller noted.
The Sports Minister also informed that plans were far advanced for the establishment of a sports museum on the fourth floor of the National Stadium in 2006. In her response, Ottey said that it had always been the “greatest pleasure and honour” to compete in the black, green and gold colours of Jamaica.
“I live in Slovenia but I will always be Jamaican. I will also offer all my assistance to Jamaican athletes and track and field fraternity whenever I can,” she stated.
She informed that her coaching staff had brought in requisite machines to carry out tests and assist the country’s teenage sprint sensation, Usain Bolt, who is presently injured.
Meanwhile, the occasion was also used to rededicate the statue of Jamaican track and field great, Donald Quarrie, who competed and won several medals for Jamaica at all Olympic games between 1972 and 1984.
World men’s 100 metre record holder, Asafa Powell was also presented with plaque from the International Athletics Association (IAAF). Powell eclipsed the previous world record of 9.78 seconds with a blistering 9.77 seconds run in Athens, Greece earlier this year.