Merlene Joyce Ottey OJ, CD (born 10 May 1960) is a Jamaican-Slovenian former track and field sprinter. She began her career representing Jamaica in 1978, and continued to do so for 24 years, before representing Slovenia from 2002 to 2012. She is ranked fourth on the all-time list over 60 metres , eighth on the all-time list over 100 metres and sixth on the all-time list over 200 metres. She is the current world indoor record holder for 200 metres with 21.87 seconds, set in 1993. She was named Jamaican Sportswoman of the Year 13 times between 1979 and 1995.
Ottey had the longest career as a top level international sprinter appearing at the Pan Am games in 1979 as a 19 year old fresh from U20 and Junior competitions, and concluding her career at age 52 when she anchored the Slovene 4 × 100 m relay team at the 2012 European Championships. A nine-time Olympic medalist, she holds the record for the most Olympic appearances (seven) of any track and field athlete. Although gold medal success at the Olympics eluded Ottey, she was able to bring home three silvers and six bronze medals. She won 14 World Championship medals, and still holds the record (as of 2017) for most medals in individual events with 10. Her career achievements and longevity led to her being called the "Queen of the Track". Her proclivity for earning bronze medals in major championships earned her the title of "Bronze Queen" in track circles.
Ottey was formerly married to the American high jumper and 400 m hurdler Nat Page and was known as Merlene Ottey-Page during the mid-eighties.
Merlene Ottey was born to Hubert and Joan Ottey in Cold Spring, Hanover, Jamaica. She was introduced to the sport by her mother, who bought her a manual on track and field. In her early school years in the 1970s, Ottey attended Gurneys Mount and Pondside Schools before graduating from Rusea's and Vere Technical high schools. There she frequently competed barefoot in local races.
Ottey's inspiration came from listening to the track and field broadcast from the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, where Donald Quarrie ran in the sprint finals. Her athletics career took off when she moved to the US and attended the University of Nebraska in 1979, where she joined the track team. She won 14 individual national titles and earned 24 All-America awards, both of which are the most by any Husker student-athlete. Ottey won multiple NCAA titles in each of her five total seasons, including five combined indoor and outdoor titles in 1982 and four in 1981. She also earned multiple All-America accolades in each of her five seasons, with seven combined All-America awards in 1982, six in 1980 and five in 1981. Ottey was also a member of Nebraska's indoor national championship teams in 1982, 1983 and 1984. She still holds Nebraska's top indoor marks in the 55- and 200-meter dashes and the program's top outdoor marks in the 100- and 200-meter dashes.
She represented Jamaica in the 1979 Pan American Games, winning a bronze medal in the 200 m. She graduated from university with a Bachelor of Arts Degree and married fellow athlete Nathaniel Page in 1984 and briefly used the name Merlene Ottey-Page. The couple later divorced.
In the 1980 Moscow games, Ottey became the first female English-speaking Caribbean athlete to win an Olympic medal. Back in Jamaica, she was awarded an Officer of the Order of Nation, and the Order of Distinction for 'services in the field of sport'.
In the 1982 Commonwealth Games, Ottey won a gold medal in the 200 m and silver medal in the 100 m. Nearly a decade later, in the 1990 Commonwealth Games, she won gold in both events. Ottey was named Ambassador of Jamaica after her gold medal win in the 1993 world championships. She has also been named Jamaican Sportswoman of the year 13 times between 1979 and 1995.
Throughout her career, she has won nine Olympic medals, which ties with Allyson Felix for the most by any woman in track and field history . These include three silver and six bronze medals. She has never won an Olympic gold medal, but lost by five thousandths of a second to Gail Devers in the 100 m Final at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta when they both recorded the same time of 10.94 seconds. This was not her closest finish to Devers – she recorded a time of 10.812 seconds to Devers' 10.811 seconds in the 1993 World Championshipsin Stuttgart – still the closest finish at an international athletics meet.
Her seven Olympic appearances from 1980 to 2004 are the second most by any Track & Field athlete, after Spanish race walker Jesús Ángel García.
She held the record for most World Championship medals, winning 14 (three gold, three silver, eight bronze) between 1983 and 1997, until Allyson Felix took her total from 13 to 16 in 2017 and then to 18 in 2019. Ottey still holds the record for most World Championship medals in individual events, with 10. 13 of her medals at the Olympics and World Championships were bronze, earning her the nickname "the Bronze Queen" in racing circles. Ottey was appointed an Ambassador at Large by the Jamaican government in 1993. Ottey also was inducted in Nebraska's first Athletics Hall of Fame Class in 2015