Friday, February 29, 2008

The Mystery of Merlene Ottey

The other day I was walking around Ljubljana. I was meant to meet with a friend but I felt sick and unfun. I walked down the street and spied the Slovene Ethnographic Museum and figured I'd stuff myself in there. I'm not sure what I was thinking since cultural artifacts in big quiet rooms scare me, but I toughed it out. I learned a bit and I really liked the musical exhibit they had up. However the most intriguing thing of all was the discovery of Ms. Merlene Ottey.


I think this sez something like: " The guests were considerably surprised at Merlene Ottey's party to celebrate both her acquisition of Slovenian citizenship and her 42nd birthday. At the venue TMG-BMC, the new Slovene awaited her guests in our national garb (in the photograph of Borut Jurčič), each attendee was also treated with bread and salt.

I read that and was scratching my head. Who was this woman? How come I never heard of her? So as soon as I got home I wiki'd her. It turns out she is an Olympic medal holder (many times over) and one of the world's most preeminent athletes in the area of track and field. Born in Jamaica she ran for that country for many years. In 1998, she moved to Slovenia to train with her Slovenian coach and after a whole bunch of Jamaican national team drama, she threw up her hands and decided not to represent that country any more. In 2002, she became a citizen of Slovenia and has represented the country in many meets. She hasn't won a medal for Slovenia and at the ripe old age of 48, I don't think she's liable to, but I think it interesting that she's here as a black woman living the life of a local celebrity and national treasure.

In Merlene's own words:

"There is a very simple reason for such a decision. Here in Ljubljana I really feel like a "normal", ordinary human being - like any other citizen - which not only means that nobody bothers me here, but mostly means I can relax just like all other people."

10 comments:

pirano said...

Merlene competed in her first Olympics in 1980. her streak is probably about to end though since gaining the qualifying standard for Beijing is most likely not within reach. Another interesting tidbit: While she's lived in many places throughout her career, the longest at any one time since she finished at the University of Nebraska has been here in Ljubljana.

Camille Acey said...

Another bright selling point for Ljubljana. Even a rolling stone like Merlene can be convinced to set down and gather a little moss here in our fine capital city!

BeautyinBaltimore said...

She is my favorite althlete. This is one sport(track and field) that I am very much into. Merlene has more track and field medals than any other female althlete. She was robbed of the gold at the 96 Olympics by Gail Devers at the tape. In 2000 she came in fourth in the 100 meter final. She was latter given the bronze as a result of Marion Jones being disqualified. She was nicknamed the bronze queen because of her many bronze medals.

bernjourn said...

Interesting post. Thanks for sharing.

guttaperk said...

Thanks for posting. I'd wondered what had become of her.

Camille Acey said...

@guttaperk - Alas, Slovenia has a way of "disappearing" people despite our best efforts to stay in touch. Someone has really got to put the place on the map! :(

courtneyminors said...

a nice school in cascade, hanover/Jamaica is name in her honor. you go girl!

Anonymous said...

If she is happy there then I say you go girl. I am proud of her many achievements.

Adrianne said...

Thanks Camille! I'll have a post on Merlene tomorrow.

Adrianne said...

Thanks Camille! I'll have a post on Merlene tomorrow.