Tue | Aug 22, 2017

T&F News turns spotlight on Ottey

Published:Saturday | December 3, 2016 | 12:00 AMHubert Lawrence
Women’s 100 metres gold medallist Gail Devers of the United States is flanked by her compatriot Gwen Torrence, bronze (left) and silver medal winner Merlene Ottey of Jamaica during the medal presentation ceremony at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Sunday, July 28, 1996.

Three races that involved Jamaica's Merlene Ottey have been cited among the best women's running contests ever seen by the editor of the respected US publication Track and Field (T&F) News.

Writing in the magazine's December issue, editor Garry Hill included Ottey's narrow losses to Gail Devers at the 1993 World Championships and the 1996 Olympics and her 1993 World 200 metres victory on a list of the best races he has ever witnessed in person. The latter contest gave Ottey, then 33, her first major championship victory.

The 1993 100 metres clash in Stuttgart, Germany was a virtual dead heat, with the 33 year-old Ottey rushing forward to catch the fast starting American on the finish line. Both were given the same time, but the photo finish image gave Devers a winning margin of 0.001 seconds. According to Claire Forrester in her book Merlene Ottey - Unyielding Spirit, Devers was uncertain about the outcome and said, "I don't know whether I won or not."

The ever gracious American concluded, "if any one deserves a gold medal, it's Merlene."

"The decision of the judges doesn't change anything for me," insisted the Jamaican. "I'm the champion," she said. "They made a mistake", she advanced, "but won't admit it."

In his December Track and Field News editorial, Hill notes, "at the next day's victory ceremony, the popular Jamaican was accorded a two-minute standing ovation."

The 1996 Olympic final followed the same exciting pattern with a whirlwind finish falling 0.005 of a second short for Ottey. With this as background, Hill was happy that she won the 1993 200m title.

"It was wonderful to see Ottey bounce back from her Stuttgart disappointment with her first ever outdoor gold after a sequence of 12 silver or bronze medals dating back to 1980," wrote Hill.

His list includes world records in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays. The former saw Tianna Bartoletta, Allyson Felix, Bianca Knight and Carmelita Jeter crush the existing mark of 41.37 seconds by East Germany with the first clocking under 41. Their fantastic effort totalled 40.82 seconds and captured the gold medals at the 2012 Olympics. The 4x400m came in a USSR - USA battle at the 1988 Olympics, with Olga Bryzgina holding Florence Griffith-Joyner at bay on the last leg. The times - 3 minutes 15.17 seconds and 3.15.51 - are still number one and two on the all-time 4x400m performance list

Interestingly, that is the only entry of Hill's list that includes Griffith-Joyner who in 1988 set world records at 100 and 200 metres.