Former United States 100m star Gail Devers has hailed the indomitable spirit of Jamaican rival and athletics icon, Merlene Ottey, after recently reflecting on the duos time together on the track.
At the peak of their powers, Devers and Ottey waged some fierce battles over the years. Often with just the narrowest of margins separating the victor for the vanquished.
Most notably, and for some controversially, Devers prevailed at the 1993 World Championships, in Stuttgart, and then again beat Ottey by the narrowest of margins at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. At the end of that contest, a photo finish and declared that Devers and Ottey had both crossed the line in 10.94 seconds, with (Gwen) Torrence 0.02 seconds further back. But Devers was declared the winner by a fractional margin.
Despite prevailing on both occasions over Ottey, who later went on to represent Slovenia on the international, Devers admitted that there was plenty to admire about her opponent’s competitive spirit.
“She knows that I have always admired her because I don’t care at what age, if she steps out there now, I am concerned. You might want to be worried because if she is in the lane, she is ready to go,” Devers told former sprinter turned pundit and coach Ato Boldon on Athletics Live.
Known for her longevity, Ottey competed for some 34 years, representing Jamaica between 1978 – 2002 and then switching to Slovenia where she ran from 2002 to 2012.
“When we were competing, it was (Irina) Privalova, it was me, it was Gwen Torrence, it was that four that you could not pick who was going to win on that day,” Devers said.
“And we can’t duck each other, we gotta go, we gotta run, gotta bring you’re A-plus game because they’re bringing their A-game. So, with Merlene, I always knew she was a great athlete, and I would always tell her ‘You still running, shoot…”