Thursday, February 3, 2011

Merlene Ottey – “100 per cent Jamaican”

2010 Sportswoman of the Year Veronica Campbell-Brown (centre) poses with Lifetime Achievement awardees Merlene Ottey (left) and Mike McCallum at the RJR Sports Foundation ceremony at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on Friday. (Jamaica Observer Photo: Bryan Cummings)

It was special to be in the same room as that living legend, Merlene Ottey, when she was honoured recently by the RJR Sports Foundation with a Lifetime Achievement Award. At 50, Ottey continues to compete and is eyeing the London 2012 Olympics. She declared herself “100 per cent Jamaican” and described the joy she has felt watching Jamaica's brilliant crop of athletes dominating the Olympics and World Championships. One has to resurrect clichés to describe the inimitable Ottey ¬– she looks half her age, and is the closest anyone has ever come to being poetry in motion. Last July, she became the oldest athlete to compete in the European Championships in Barcelona, and declared that she was looking forward to competing in this year's World Championship in Daegu, South Korea.

The other Lifetime honoree, Michael McCallum, our most successful boxer who has held three world titles, credited Bunny Grant with inspiring him as a young boy to take up boxing. Many years ago I interviewed McCallum, who said that although he lived in an inner-city community, his parents were vigilant about his every move and schooling and nutrition. He proudly introduced his mother at the event.

Kudos to Sportswoman and Sportsman of the Year Veronica Campbell-Brown and Chris Gayle. Our beloved “VCB” was radiant and articulate – she may well be on her way to becoming another legend like her long-time idol, Merlene.

Main Speaker Dr Edwin Moses said he was thankful for “solid Jamaican no-nonsense advice” from the likes of Herb McKenley, Donald Quarrie and Lennox Miller. He said Dr George Rhoden had fitted him with the first inserts for his running shoes as he was flat-footed – and we know where those took him.

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