Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Athens gold was for Ottey - Bailey

Published:Monday | February 6, 2017 | 2:00 AMHubert Lawrence
Jamaica’s relay team (from left), Veronica Campbell-Brown, Aleen Bailey, Sherone Simpson and Tayna Lawrence, celebrate after winning the women’s 4 x 100m relay final at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. Jamaica won the gold medal in a time of 41.73 seconds ahead of Russia and France.
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Olympic relay gold medallist Aleen Bailey says that the 4x100m victory in 2004 was all for Merlene Ottey.

Bailey, who is currently nursing a hip injury, says the team of Tayna Lawrence, Sherone Simpson, herself, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Beverly McDonald were inseparable and thinks team unity was a big factor in their success.

"For me, I think for all of us, it was for her (Ottey) because she was there with us at the time," Bailey said.

The relay came after a fine showing by Jamaica in the individual sprints as Campbell-Brown, Bailey and Simpson were third, fifth and sixth all in the 100m final and then Campbell-Brown beat Allyson Felix of the United States in the 200m, with Bailey finishing fourth.

Speaking about the relay won by Jamaica with a national record of 41.74 seconds, Aleen said: "We were just inseparable and we moved with each other.

"We were a unit, and I think once you have that level of support and unity, everything flows."

Describing the victory as 'an amazing moment', she recalled: "You've had teams that could have won the Olympics and we were the youngest and we gelled together, and Merlene and Beverly being there and encouraging us and giving us the extra push that we needed to go out there and win, and then the bathing suit, we can't go out there in that and lose."

That was a reference to a memorable running outfit worn by the winning Jamaican team.

She was grateful to Ottey, who was in Athens representing Slovenia.

"Throughout the whole time, she (Ottey) would come by and visit and hang out with us and talk with us and that got us levelled and calm," Bailey shared.

 

BRILLIANT VICTORY

 

"For me, it was more than just going out there and just winning for her because she was on those teams before and there was the whole thing about her and Jamaica being mad at her for switching to a different country," Bailey added.

While Ottey had anchored Jamaica to a brilliant victory at the 1991 World Championships, the Athens triumph ended a long run of Olympic disappointments.

With Ottey ever present, baton drops stopped the bid for gold in 1984 and 1992. Injury prevented the Jamaican team from taking its place in the 1988 final and slowed third-leg runner Nikole Mitchell in the 1996 final, forcing Ottey into high gear to win the bronze.

In 2000, team discord limited baton passing practice and left Lawrence, then schoolgirl Campbell, McDonald and Ottey behind The Bahamas.