André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
Jamaica's sprinting great Merlene Ottey has paid tribute to the island's current stock of track-and-field stars and believes that the trend of top athletes training locally has contributed significantly to the country's increased successes.
Ottey, who now resides in her adopted Slovenia, also admitted that she could one day return to live in Jamaica, once she retires from competition.
Now 52, Ottey, who like many other Jamaicans studied and trained in the United States after completing high school in Jamaica, is convinced that she could have trained in Jamaica with similar success given the abilities of the local coaches, but that she had little choice but to take her development to the University of Nebraska, given her academic preferences.
"I think it took too long for Jamaican athletes to stay and train at home," said Ottey. "I was ready, I could have stayed in Jamaica and train and get good results also, because I think we have the best coaches.
"At the same time also, I wanted the education and I wanted to do something in fashion and that was not available here and now I see where sponsors are coming to help out the student athletes and as I said, we have the two best coaches here in Jamaica and they are producing the results in the classroom as well, so I am very proud," Ottey added, before showering praise on the country's cast of athletics stars.
"It's great, since the 2004 Athens Olympics Jamaica has been getting better and better and every year they improve and they get more athletes and there are some young ones waiting to take the baton and keep going and I hope that Jamaica can keep doing well at the international level for many years to come," said Ottey.
"When one Jamaican is successful others will say, well if he or she can do it then I can as well and they have a lot of self-confidence and desire. They want to do the best for themselves and this is why we keep on seeing the improvements. Usain (Bolt) came out and it's the same, I bet a lot of young athletes wish to be like Bolt," Ottey added. "I am sure it will continue and Jamaica will continue to do well."
The nine-time Olympic and record 14-time World Championships medallist, who has worked with MVP Track Club's Stephen Francis in the past during a summer camp, also noted that she enjoys very good relations with the Jamaican athletes.
"My relationship with the athletes is good because whenever I can get to see them when they are in Europe competing we always spend some time talking. I get along well with everyone," Ottey shared before weighing in on the possibility of a return to Jamaica.
"I have been thinking about it (living in Jamaica), I guess when I can get off the track, then I can get down here and make that happen," a smiling Ottey said.