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Merlene Ottey: The First Jamaican Woman Medalist to Win the 200M Race


Merlene Ottey is one of the most decorated Jamaican sprinters of all time. Her longevity in track & field is something to behold. During her 34-year career, she represented Jamaica and later Slovenia. Ottey participated in the biggest competitions: the Olympic Games, World Championships, World Indoor Championships & the Commonwealth Games. 

Her tendency to win bronze medals earned her the moniker, the ‘Bronze Queen’. This post reflects on her outstanding career.

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Merlene Ottey’s Early Days

A video looking at Merlene Ottey’s career. Video Credit: Caribbean Sports by J-irie

Born in Hanover, Jamaica, Merlene Ottey mother bought her a track & field manual and introduced her to the sport. Additionally, the Olympic Games’ broadcasts inspired her to pursue an athletic career. She went on to race barefoot in different school and local competitions. Hoping to make it to the Jamaican team, she traveled to Kingston for a relay race and won. 

Merlene Ottey career trajectory took a positive turn after she joined the University of Nebraska. The Jamaican clinched multiple titles during her collegiate career, earning the highest honors: 14 individual national titles and 24 All-American Awards.

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Professional Career

spotcovery-Merlene Ottey glancing
Merlene Ottey glancing. Source: Wikimedia licensed by Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0

Merlene Ottey won a bronze medal in her first international competition, the Pan-American Games in 1979. At the same event, she won a silver medal in the 4 by 100 meters relay. 

The following year, at the Moscow Games, the Jamaican made history as the first English-speaking Caribbean to win an Olympic medal. MerleneOttey clinched the bronze medal in the 200m. For this achievement, the sprinter earned the National Honor of Officer of the Order of Nation and Order of Distinction.

Her first gold medal came in at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in the 200m, where she also took a silver medal in the 100m. When she returned to the games in 1990, Ottey took home the gold medal in both events. Here’s a look at how she fared in different events:

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Commonwealth Games

Ottey participated in two events, Brisbane in 1982 and Auckland in 1990. She won three medals: a gold medal, a silver medal, and a bronze medal.

World Indoor Championships

Merlene Ottey ran in five of these events in the 200m and 60m. Her first event was in 1983, at Indianapolis, where she won the silver medal in the 60m. In her other events, the Jamaican won:

  • Three gold medals
  • Two silver
  • A bronze medal.

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World Championships

The athlete had a commendable record in the World Championships. Across the 100m, 200m, and 4 by 100m, Ottey won seven bronze medals, four silvers and three gold medals. She previously held the record for most World Championships medals until Allyson Felix surpassed her. The American has 20 medals.


The gold medal eluded her at the Olympics. Ottey bagged six bronze and three silvers. Her nine Olympic medals and seven appearances make her one of the most successful track & field athletes.

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Change of Citizenship

Ottey moved to Slovenia in 1998. After four years, she became a Slovenian and switched her nationality. She represented Slovenia at: 

Even at an advanced age, Merlene Ottey continued competing. That said, her long career shows her dedication to the sport, and even after countless medals, she still yearned to compete at the highest level. It’s why they referred to her as the ‘Queen of Track.’

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