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Hubert Lawrence | More Olympic medals for women

Published:Thursday | June 23, 2016 | 12:00 AMHubert Lawrence

By the time 20-year-old Merlene Ottey settled into her blocks for the Olympic 200-metre final in 1980, Jamaica had already won 14 Olympic medals in athletics.

Glorious gold medals had come via Arthur Wint, George Rhoden, the world record breaking 1952 men's 4x400m quartet and Don Quarrie, but none from our women.

Ottey changed that.

Before her, the closest a Jamaican woman had come to an Olympic medal was fourth place by talented teenager Una Morris in the 1964 Olympics; and also in the 200m. Phenomenally, Morris returned to star at Girls Championships for Kingston Technical High in 1965.

However, Ottey and her third place finish in 1980 changed the game.

Despite that 14-medal head start, Jamaica's men have been overtaken by their female Olympic team-mates. Now, out of a total of 55 Olympic medals, the ladies lead 33 to 32.

Thanks to the likes of four-time individual winner, Usain Bolt, the men lead the gold medal count 10 to seven, but there's no denying that the ladies have made up ground on the men rapidly.

Ottey did her part with seven individual Olympic medals, but the gold medals have been won by Deon Hemmings, Veronica Campbell-Brown, the 2004 4x100m team of Tayna Lawrence, Sherone Simpson, Aleen Bailey and Campbell-Brown, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Melaine Walker.

These days, the strength of Jamaica's Olympic track and field team is evenly spread. In London at the 2012 Olympics, the male-female medal split was 7-5. Last year, at the Beijing World Championships, it was 7-5 the other way.

There's no way of telling what will happen in Rio de Janeiro when this summer's Olympic Games begin. Estimates of Jamaica's strength will be better made after next week's National Senior Championships, but the safe bet is that the team selected will push the nation's all-time Olympic medal haul past 65.

If recent trends continue, medal parity between our men and women should be maintained.

- HUBERT LAWRENCE has made notes at track side since 1980.