Home - The Star
February 12, 2013
Star Sport


Ottey: I am still Jamaican
Marc Stamp, STAR Writer

Minister with responsibility for sports, Natalie Neita-Headley (right), greets Olympian Merlene Ottey shortly after she arrived at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston yesterday. A seven-time Olympian, Ottey will be honoured at the third staging of the Ben Francis Invitational track and field meet on Saturday at Vere Technical High in Hayes, Clarendon. - Contributed

Olympian Merlene Ottey is presented with flowers by chief executive officer of Grace Foods, Michael Ranglin, when she arrived at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, yesterday. - Contributed

Seven-time Olympian Merlene Ottey arrived in the island yesterday and will be an honouree at the third staging of the Ben Francis Invitational track and field meet scheduled for Saturday at Vere Technical High School in Hayes, Clarendon.

At a reception shortly after her arrival at the Norman Manley International Airport, Ottey, who is now a Slovenian citizen, told the gathering: "I am still Jamaican, and am honoured to be here. I thank my mother (Joan Ottey), who taught me about courage, determination, hard work and dedication. She is my role model. I also thank everyone who has supported me over the years."

The organisers of the meet have chosen to honour Ottey - one of the greatest female sprinters of all time at this year's event. Ottey, 52, started her track career in Jamaica but moved to Slovenia in 1998 and has represented that European country since 2002. She ran in Slovenian colours in Athens in 2004, her seventh and final Olympic Games. She had previously represented Jamaica at the 1980, '84, '88, '92, '96 and 2000 Games earning eight medals - three silver and five bronze..

Natalie Neita-Headley, minister without portfolio in the office of the prime minister with responsibility for sports, welcomed Ottey: "You are our gold medal sprint queen. We thank you for all you have done and continue to do for Jamaica," Neita-Headley said.

Neita-Headley disclosed that on Thursday, Ottey will be hosted at a luncheon by Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller at Vale Royal.

Henrietta Stewart, principal of Vere and chairperson of the Ben Francis Invitational organising committee, also welcomed Ottey and said the meet has now become institutionalised.

"Vere Technical High has produced the most international athletes in the world," Stewart pointed out.

Richard Bowen, managing director of Barita Marketing, coordinators of the meet, said the first event is set to start at 9 a.m. and will finish at 7 p.m., as there will be lights at the venue.

Last year, 55 schools participated at the meet, and this year the organisers are expecting greater representation. The new events include javelin open for male and female, 100m hurdles for Class Three boys and 70m hurdles and 4x400m.

Six championship events which will attract cash prizes of $40,000 each will go to the winning schools of the boys 4x100m, 400m and 2000m steeplechase and the girls 200m Class One, high jump and 4x400m.

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