Ottey, regarded as one of the most decorated female athletes ever, arrived in the island from her adopted home in Slovenia as the honoree of Saturday’s Ben Francis Invitational meet to be staged at Vere Technical’s campus in Clarendon.
Ottey, 52, will also be bestowed with a honorary degree by the University of Technology while she’s here.
“My love for Jamaica will never die… and it’s always good to come home. I may live in another country, but Jamaica will always be my home,” she told a gathering, including government officials, students and teachers of Ottey’s alma mater, Vere Technical.
Originally from Hanover located on Jamaica’s western point, Ottey thanked her mom Joan Bowen Ottey for being her inspiration.
“I have to thank my mom for giving me her last cents so I could go to Kingston for meets… She showed me what it was to work hard and to sacrifice, so she’s a role model to me,” said Ottey, who still represents Slovenia in the sprints.
Minister with responsibility for sport, Natalie Neita-Headley, said Jamaica is indebted to the sprint queen for playing her role in putting Jamaica on the world map.
“Merlene created a wave of unprecedented achievement and she continues to be an example of virtue,” she said.
Ottey will be involved in a series of activities at her old school leading up to the Ben Francis Invitational, which begins tomorrow with a float parade.
Sponsors for the meet will be the Jamaica Observer, Grace Foods, Western Union, Caribbean Airlines/Air Jamaica, VMBS, COK, Fidelity Motors, Spanish Court Hotel and Carimed.
Ottey is ranked fourth on the all-time list over 60 metres (indoor), sixth on the all-time list over 100 metres, and third on the all-time list over 200 metres.
Her world indoor record for 200 metres, set in 1993, still stands.
Ottey has had the longest career as a top level international sprinter, which apparently has not yet concluded, as she anchored the Slovenian 4×100 relay at the 2012 European Athletics Championships at the age of 52.
She holds the record for the most Olympic appearances (seven) of any track and field athlete and for winning the largest number of World Championships medals (14).
Her career achievements and longevity have led to her being called the “Queen of the Track”.
Her proclivity for earning bronze medals in major championships also earned her the title of “Bronze Queen” in track circles.
Ottey’s Olympic medals
Silver 1996 Atlanta 100m
Silver 1996 Atlanta 200m
Silver 2000 Sydney 4×100 m relay
Bronze 1980 Moscow 200m
Bronze 1984 Los Angeles 100m
Bronze 1984 Los Angeles 200m
Bronze 1992 Barcelona 200m
Bronze 1996 Atlanta 4x100m relay
Bronze 2000 Sydney 100m