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Great Races

World Championships 1993 200m: Ottey’s redemption

Published:Sunday | June 12, 2022 | 12:10 AMDaniel Wheeler - Staff Reporter

Merlene Ottey arrives at the Norman Manley International Airport in October of 1993 to a hero’s welcome.
Merlene Ottey arrives at the Norman Manley International Airport in October of 1993 to a hero’s welcome.
Athletics - Sixth World Championship - Athens 1997 - Women’s 200m Semi-Final

NEED CAPTION
Athletics - Sixth World Championship - Athens 1997 - Women’s 200m Semi-Final NEED CAPTION
FILE
Merlene Ottey, again second over 100 metres at the World Championships in 1995.
FILE Merlene Ottey, again second over 100 metres at the World Championships in 1995.
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The World Championships are coming and Jamaicans all over the world are looking forward to the showpiece track and field event they have done well at since its first staging all the way back in 1983. In the weeks approaching the World...

The World Championships are coming and Jamaicans all over the world are looking forward to the showpiece track and field event they have done well at since its first staging all the way back in 1983. In the weeks approaching the World Championships, The Gleaner is dedicating some of its space to reminding its readers about some of the moments that have kept this great event near and dear to our hearts. Keep on the lookout for ‘Great Races’ this, and every Sunday until the World Championships in July.

BEFORE 1993, individual gold, whether at the Olympics or at the World Championships, seemed to always elude Jamaican sprinting icon, Merlene Ottey. The 1993 World Championships in Stuttgart would signify a breakthrough in her career, claiming a maiden title and getting redemption after a 100m final that she thought she won.

At the time, Ottey was blazing a trail on the world stage for Jamaica, in a series of firsts.

In the inaugural World Championships in 1983, Ottey became the first Jamaican female athlete to capture a world championship individual medal, earning silver in the 200m. A year later, she would be the first female athlete in the English-speaking Caribbean to win an Olympic medal, claiming bronze in the 200m in Moscow.

Though Ottey would continue winning medals at subsequent World Championships and Olympic Games, in both the 100m and 200m, a global title always seemed elusive.

While she did taste success in 1991 as a member of Jamaica’s winning 4x100-metre team at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo, individually, it was always bronze.

Entering the 1993 World Championships, and already with the moniker Bronze Queen, Ottey would be competing against her American rivals on two fronts: Gail Devers in the 100 metres, who won Olympic gold the previous year in Barcelona, and Gwen Torrence, who had done the same in the 200m. Both those victories came at Ottey’s expense, having to settle for bronze in both events in 1992.

In the 100m, all three title contenders got through their heats and in the semi-finals, Ottey edged Torrence, with both women clocking 10.87 seconds.

PHOTO FINISH

In the final, Ottey would be involved in the same situation, this time with Devers. Both women clocked a championship record time of 10.82. However, the roles were reversed. Ottey closed Devers down in a photo finish, convinced that she had finally tasted World Championships success. It would be Devers that was given the victory, adding the World title to the Olympic crown and leaving Ottey frustrated.

“I thought I won. I would be happy with the gold medal. But why did it take so long to decide, and in the semi-finals and Gwen (Torrence) ran the same time and there were no problems, there was no doubt who won the race,” Ottey said after.

“I thought I did enough for the gold medal but unfortunately it wasn’t enough.”

That loss set the stage for the redemption that would follow in the 200m.

Ottey would progress through qualifying and had the fastest semi-final time heading into the final with 22.12 seconds.

Staring down Torrence again, with the disappointment of a few nights ago on her mind, this time she would have her moment.

Ottey’s response to the gun was phenomenal, driving into something looking like a lead on the turn, circling Russia’s Galina Malchugina and Torrence.

But Torrence was not done, closing furiously over the final 50 metres, but the Bronze Queen would hold on to end the wait for a world title.

“It was very difficult. I didn’t sleep much the two nights and the schedule was really tough. I wasn’t fully recovered. I was just hoping that everything would go on alright,” Ottey said after the race.

“After the 100m, I was very disappointed. I was anxious to get going. I used up all my energy in the first 150m. But I held on to win the gold medal.”

A successful 200m World title defence in 1995 followed and she would go on to amass 14 world championship medals, now the second most all-time. American Allyson Felix surpassed her in 2017 and now has 18 medals.

daniel.wheeler@gleanerjm.com