Merlene Ottey

The Early Years

The Years in Jamaica

Merlene was born on 10 May 1960 in Pondside – a small rural community in one of Jamaica’s 14 parishes, Hanover. Her parents were Hubert and Joan Ottey and Merlene was the fourth of seven children. Her brothers and sisters are named Desmond, Yvonne, Beverley, Janet, Ruthven and Hugh. She went to the following schools Gurney's Mount (-1971) and Pondside All-Age (1971-1976). Later she graduated from Rusea's (1976-1978) and Vere Technical high schools (1978-). It was back in those school days in the seventies that the inspiration and ambition to run the sprints came to Merlene. Her inspiration mainly came from listening to the track and field broadcasts from the 1976 Olympics in Montreal (Canada), where her fellowcountryman Donald Quarrie ran in the sprint finals. During those school years in Jamaica when she was still a teenager Merlene Ottey accomplished to win several medals at national and regional championships - the greatest accomplishment being the 1979 200 metre bronze medal at the Pan American Games.

Some of Merlene's race results from these years can be found here.

Caricature of Merlene Ottey from the newspaper 
Daily Nebraskan


The Years at University

In August 1979 Merlene Ottey was given a stormy and enthusiatisc welcome to University of Nebraska in Lincoln (Nebraska, USA). This was where her road to international track and field stardom would be given a kick-start running for the Huskers team. The years at Nebraska Merlene set several collegiate records and even some 300 yards world records. She was a seven-time indoor national champion, and won just as many national titles outdoors. To go along with those titles, Ottey was an All-American 25 times. At one time in 1982, Ottey held nine of the 10 top times in 300-yard dash in the world.

Back in Jamaica her accomplishments were really beginning to be reckonized: In 1980 she was named Carreras Sportswoman of the Year - an award she was to win eleven times (1980, 1982-1985, 1987, 1989-1991, 1993-1994). In the summer of 1984 Ottey graduated from Nebraska University with a Bachelor of Arts degree. The same year (3 February 1984) she married American high jumper cum hurdler Nathaniel Page.

In 1999 Merlene was named Top Female Athlete of the Century at Nebraska University. Read Jay Saunders' article on that award at the Daily Nebraskan website (search for Ottey).

jm83Nebraska1.jpg (101028 bytes)

Photo of Merlene Ottey running for Nebraska University in 1983 
(thanks to fanclub member Dave for supplying me with this photo)


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