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The Classics

Merlene Ottey praised for outstanding career

Published:Friday | March 24, 2023 | 8:15 AM
Joan Bowen (third left), mother of sprint star Merlene Ottey (inset), receives The Gleaner Honour Award on behalf of her daughter at the awards banquet at The Jamiaca Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston on Thursday, March 16, 1994. Making the presentation is Chief Justice Edward Zacca. Others (from left) are Janet Ottey, Merlene's sister; Richard Ashenheim, vice-chairman of the Board of The Gleaner Company; Dr Dudley Stokes, human resource development manager at The Gleaner, and Eric Abrahams, honorary chairman.
Merlene Ottey
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Professor Edward Baugh only had good things to say about sprint queen Merlene Ottey who was honoured by The Gleaner. Baugh confidently shared that, because of Ottey’s achievements over the years, she was recognised and appreciated worldwide.

Published Friday, March 18, 1994

GLEANER HONOUR AWARD WINNER

Ottey ...  gracious in victory and defeat

McPherse Thompson/Gleaner Staff Reporter

SPRINT champion Merlene Ottey has been lauded for quietly demonstrating the highest and most exemplary quality of character, in victory as well as in disappointment and defeat.

The accolades came from The University of the West Indies’ Professor of English, Edward Baugh, who said that "no choice of a Jamaican" as the recipient of the 1993 Gleaner Honour Award "could be more comprehensively popular than the choice of the Honourable Merlene".

He was speaking at a banquet at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, Thursday, March 17, at which the honour award was presented.

The award seeks to honour persons whose "initiative, accomplishment, and courage have contributed significantly by word or deed to improving Jamaica’s quality of life".

Professor Baugh said the criteria for the awards "could not have been more accurately drawn for Miss Ottey".

He said, "It does us well to reflect on the significance of the overwhelming surge of national acclamation which has followed Miss Ottey ever since those world-stopping few seconds when, in banks, in offices, on the streets, in homes, we held our breath as she put all that she worked for on the line."

High achievement

He said only badmindedness would wish to detract from the high achievement of that moment or from the rejoicing that greeted it.

"Let us realise, too, that it was not just a case of being carried away by nationalistic sentiment," said Professor Baugh. "For the whole world was caught up in that moment. The whole world was with her, not just us.’' He said the whole world knew it was sharing in a fitting culmination of an epic struggle.

Professor Baugh said it was not that that race and the gold had suddenly made her great. "We were rejoicing that a greatness which had marked an entire career, and which we had always recognised, was now being sealed in the way which would make her feel most comfortable with our acclaim."

That a sprinter should be going stronger than ever after 15 years of outstanding performance "is itself a cause for awe", he said.

Apart from Miss Ottey’s physical excellence and athletic prowess, said Professor Baugh, "... what has given that extra something to our celebration of her achievement ... is our deep, long and perhaps more often than not instinctual recognition that what we have been privileged to follow all these years is a quiet demonstration of the highest, the most exemplary quality of character".

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