Home > Sports > Athens 2004 > Features
Interview: Merlene Ottey
August 13, 2004
Jamaican sprinter Merlene Ottey is not going to Athens merely to extend her own record by running in a seventh Olympic Games, she has every intention of getting to a fifth 100 metres final.
Speaking ahead of her departure to Athens to compete for the first time under the flag of her adopted home Slovenia, the 44-year-old said she was hoping to cause the world's top sprinters some problems.
"I'm not going there because it's the seventh," Ottey told Reuters in an interview on Thursday. "I think I'll be happy if I go there and do well. I try to remain focused on what I would like to achieve.
"I'd like to get my times improved, and to see how far I can go. Hopefully, I can be pushing the favourites to their limits."
Since winning a bronze medal in the 200 on her Olympic debut in Moscow 24 years ago, Ottey has accumulated a haul of eight medals, three silvers and four further bronzes. The gold, though, still eludes her.
Ottey will be running in both sprint events in Athens and is optimistic of doing well after an injury-free year in which she has set best times of 11.09 seconds for the 100 and 23.06 seconds for the 200.
"I know both races will be difficult, but I can't really complain," she said. "For me it's a great surprise that I am still able to do what I am doing.
"I'm not thinking about medals yet. On paper at the moment I am in the semi-finals (of the 100 metres). The goal now is to beat eight other people to get to the finals.
"I know I'm in good shape for the 200, but I need a bit of confidence because in the last few years I have done nothing," Ottey said.
"In the 200 metres I'm only in the first run at the moment (on paper) but I'm very confident I can go beyond the first round."
Ottey became the oldest medallist in Olympic track and field history when she won a silver medal in the 4x100 relay for her native Jamaica four years ago.
But the controversy surrounding her selection for the team for Sydney meant that was her last medal for Jamaica. "After Sydney I said I wasn't going to run another race for Jamaica ... because I felt like the Jamaicans were trying to push me out of the sport and I really needed to prove my point, that I might be 40 but I can still run," she said.
"I decided I would not run for Jamaica but for myself and if I could find a country to run for, then I would run for that country.
"If Slovenia hadn't given me the citizenship I would still be racing. Not in major competitions, but I'd be still competing," she said.
She was awarded Slovenian citizenship in 2002 and now lives in Ljubljana, the capital of the small Alpine country of some two million
Ottey said she was still adjusting to the "cultural shock" of moving to Slovenia.
"Somehow I have to make it work for the future," she said.
Of the past, Ottey said her first Olympics were the most memorable.
"They are always something special," she said. "Moscow was very good because I was very young and came in and it was my first attempt at winning a medal.
"The games are more commercialised now ... back then you were going just for the sports, for the glory of the Olympics, it was a hugely different emotion."
Ottey is still not talking about retirement.
"At the moment I am very enthusiastic," she said. "I like what I'm doing so I won't say I am going to retire tomorrow or after Athens."