André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
"I am 100 per cent Jamaican," was the reminder from lifetime achievement award recipient Merlene Ottey last Friday evening at the RJR Sports Foundation National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year awards ceremony at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.
Ottey, 50, a Jamaican sporting legend who has been representing Slovenia since 2002, underlined her affection for Jamaica and Jamaicans while accepting her award in recognition of years of excellent service on the track. The many-time Sportswoman of the Year has been living abroad for many years but only decided to don the colours of another country after her compatriots protested against her inclusion in the women's 100 metres at the 2000 Sydney Olympics at the expense of then National champion Peta-Gay Dowdie.
"This feels wonderful and I'm very grateful for the attention that you all have been showing me," said a clearly moved Ottey, the first Jamaican woman to win an Olympic medal.
"I have been in Jamaica for just two days and it has been an amazing feeling and thank you very much, I feel very special. I am very honoured to be in the presence of the most wonderful and supportive people in the world," said the athlete who, in a distinguished career, won nine Olympic and 14 IAAF World Championships (outdoor) medals.
A second lifetime achievement award was presented to three-time world boxing champion, 54-year-old Mike McCallum, who also expressed great satisfaction with the recognition.
"It was electrifying," said McCallum with regard to the award. "For so many years of working hard and tonight to come here and see that my Jamaicans still remember what I did, it's just electrifying, a very special moment."
Ottey's heir, Veronica Campbell-Brown, was, however, the toast of the evening, walking away with three awards on the back of a hugely successful 2010.
Campbell-Brown was announced as the Sportswoman of the Year after winning the 60 metres at the World Indoor Championships in Doha, Qatar, in addition to registering the fastest times in the world in the 100m and 200m over the last 12 months.
Campbell-Brown's personal best 10.78 seconds run in the 100m also received the highest votes from the public as the People's Choice performance of the year award. She also walked away with the female athletics award.
Swimming sensation Alia Atkinson, who also had a fantastic year, was named as her runner-up. Atkinson won four gold medals at the Central America and Caribbean Games in Puerto Rico and also became the first Jamaican to qualify for the finals of the FINA short course World Swimming Championships.
Former West Indies skipper Christopher Gayle walked away with his first Sportsman of the Year award for his massive Test knock of 333 against Sri Lanka. Gayle also had a good one-day international series against Zimbabwe, scoring 273 runs at an average of 54.75 runs per innings, as well as two half centuries against South Africa.
Commonwealth Games 100m champion Lerone Clarke was announced as the runner-up to the Sportsman of the Year.
Special awards were also presented to young sprinters Odean Skeen and Dexter Lee for their respective 100m triumphs at the Youth Olympic Games and World Junior Championships, respectively.
The national senior cricket team, visually impaired cricket team, national senior football team, national under-16 netball team, and badminton players Alya Lewis and Garron Palmer all received team awards for exceptional performances.
Five individuals were also recognised for their contribution off the field: Carvel Stewart (football), Jerry Reid (sports development), Jacqueline Walter (swimming), Charles Fuller (athletics), and Maurice Haughton-James (fitness development).