One of the most prolific Olympic and World Championships medalist in the region got her start at the Carifta Games in 1979 in Kingston.
Merlene Ottey was born on the 10th of May, 1960 in Jamaica.
She participated in her first Carifta Games just before her nineteenth birthday, winning a Silver medal in the 200m, running 24.05sec to Oralee Fowler of The Bahamas’ 23.98sec.
At the 1979 Central American and Caribbean Senior Championships Ottey set a new championships record in the 200m when she ran 23.10sec in the semi-final.
In the final she won the Gold medal in a time of 23.44sec.
Winning the 400m was Debbie Byfield of Jamaica, the mother of Kelli White of the USA who had won the 100m in the 2003 IAAF World Championships in Paris. White was subsequently suspended when she tested positive for modafinil, a stimulant.
That July Ottey participated in the Pan American Games in San Juan and finished with the Bronze medal in the 200m, the first of many bronze medals she would win.
Then came her first Olympic medal in 1980, after having participated in international competition for just two seasons. Ottey ran 22.20sec at the Moscow Olympic Games for the Bronze. These Games were boycotted by the USA.
Three years later she won the silver medal at the inaugural IAAF World Championships in Helsinki in 22.19sec. She finished fourth in the 100m in 11.19sec.
At the 1985 Central American and Caribbean Senior Championships in Nassau Ottey captured the 100m and 200m, both in championship records (11.18sec, 22.39sec).
At the Inaugural IAAF World Indoor Championships in Indianapolis Ottey won the Silver medal in the 200m in 22.66sec.
The action moved to Rome in August of that year when the second IAAF World Championships was held. Ottey won two Bronze medals, one in the 100m in 11.04sec and the other in the 200m in 22.06sec.
She captured the Gold medal in the 200m in the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Budapest, Hungary. She ran 22.34sec in that victory.
Ottey repeated that victory in the 1991 Seville World Indoor Championships, running 22.24sec at that time.
It was back to bronze in Tokyo in 1991 where the third IAAF World Championships was held. Ottey ran 11.06sec for the 100m and 22.26sec for the 200m.
The 1993 World Championships in Stuttgart proved much better for Ottey. There she captured her first Gold medal in the world outdoor level when she won the 200m in 21.98sec, defeating Gwen Torrance of the USA in the process. Ottey received a rousing and long round of applause for that victory.
In Gothenburg at the 1995 World Championships she repeated with a Gold medal in the 200m in 22.12sec while winning the Silver medal in the 100m in 10.94sec.
At the Atlanta Games in 1996 Ottey won two silver medals, one in the 100m in 10.94sec and the other in the 200m in 22.24sec.
The next year she won the Bronze medal in her specialty, the 200m in 22.40sec at the World Championships in Athens.
Ottey was suspended just prior to the start of the 1999 Seville World Championships for a doping infraction.
She was reinstated at the beginning of August of 2000, less than two months prior to the Sydney Olympic Games where she won the Bronze medal in the 100m in 11.19sec.
She was forty years of age at the time.
Three years later Ottey was in a Slovenian uniform at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham, England.
She participated in the 2003 IAAF World Championships in Paris, the Olympic Games in Athens, and the IAAF World Championships in Osaka without making the finals.
Ottey’s bests are 10.74sec ran on September 7th, 1996 in Milan and 21.64sec ran in Brussels on September 13th, 1991. Her 200m time is the third best ever run and her 100m time is the sixth best ever run.
At age fifty-three Ottey has hopes of making the Moscow World Championships this year. And the veteran from Jamaica might just do it.
Nobody should forget, however, that Ottey got her start in the 1979 Carifta Games.