André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
She may be nearing her 53rd birthday, but Jamaican sprinting legend Merlene Ottey is still not ready to pull the plug on her record-breaking career.
Ottey, who is in the island for a series of events, told reporters at a specially arranged media event at the Spanish Court Hotel yesterday afternoon that she is currently preparing for this summer's IAAF World Championships in Moscow, almost 30 years since her first appearance at the event in 1983.
Now a citizen of Slovenia, which she represented as recently as last year's European Athletics Championships in the 4x100m, Ottey, who has a record 14 World Championships medals between 1983 and 1997, laughed when asked about her retirement, advising that she has been preparing well for the August 10-18 meet.
Ottey, who boasts three Olympic silver and six bronze medals, said she expects to be watching the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro from the stands, but the ever-fresh athlete is certainly giving herself a shot to make the cut in Moscow later this year.
"I am preparing for the World Championships. It's my goal and we will see what happens," said Ottey. "One day, probably I will stop, I came in and surprised everybody and surprised the world but I don't want to go out like that.
"Preparations have been good so far. I was in South Africa training for five weeks, so it's been good. I'm feeling very good," Ottey added.
"I just love to run, and when you have a passion like this, you don't look at the little things. I have very strong belief. I always believed that I would make it and do certain things and it's a big fight, but I fight going down, that's how I am," said Ottey.
However, there are clear signs that the legend is finally slowing down as she posted 11.96 last season, her worst-ever return.
A nine-time Olympic medallist, Ottey is to be awarded with a honorary doctorate degree from the University of Technology (UTech) during her time in the island.
The Honorary Doctor of Technology - Sport award will be presented at her alma mater Vere Technical on Saturday, at a special ceremony, at the Ben Francis Invitational meet, which is being staged in her honour.
FEELING THE LOVE
Ottey, Jamaica's most decorated female athlete and the first woman from the English-speaking Caribbean to win an Olympic medal, is only the second person to be given this award, after Olympian Dennis Johnson, who founded UTech's sports programme and helped to develop its Faculty of Science and Sport.
The iconic athlete was the feature of a motorcade throughout May Pen on Tuesday, which she also spent at Vere talking to the students and participating at the school's sports day. It was her first time back at the school where she announced her abilities in some 30 years.
"I had no doubt that Jamaicans love me. Every time I come down here, their love for me remains. This is great because it gave me an opportunity to go to Vere, that was the first time I have been back for about 30 years, and it was good that I had the opportunity to go back," Ottey said.
"I was able to talk to the students and they seemed very happy," She added.
Ottey competed in six Olympic Games for Jamaica before switching her allegiance to Slovenia in 2001. She became the oldest woman to win an Olympic medal at the 2000 Sydney Games as part of Jamaica's silver medal winning 4x100m team.