Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association President Warren Blake hailed Olympians Merlene Ottey and Deon Hemmings-McCatty as pioneers of local athletics after they were announced among the sporting figures to receive national awards later this year.
Ottey, 60 years old, will receive the Order of Jamaica, the country’s fourth highest honour, on Heroes Day in October, while Hemmings-McCatty will be awarded the Order of Distinction, Commander class. This is the second time Ottey will be honoured as she previously received the Order of Distinction, Officer class.
Blake recognised their latest achievement, praising both for what he says is paving the way for the excellence that Jamaica currently enjoys in the sport.
“They have laid the foundations and taught the younger ones what to aim for and what to try and achieve,” Blake told The Gleaner. “Merlene has won several medals at several occasions for Jamaica and has carried the flag for years, and Deon was the first Caribbean woman to win gold at an event (at the Olympics). So they are two that have laid the foundation of track and field in Jamaica.”
Ottey became the first woman from the English-speaking Caribbean to win an Olympic medal at the 1980 Moscow games, earning bronze in the 200m final. She has amassed a total of 30 medals during her career, which include nine Olympic medals (three silver and six bronze) and 14 World Championships medals (three gold, four silver, seven bronze). Hemmings-McCatty’s history-making feat came at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, where she won the 400m hurdles. She has won a total of eight medals in her career.
Jamaica senior women’s team footballer Khadija Shaw will be awarded the Order of Distinction, Officer class, for outstanding achievements in football. Shaw was a member of the Reggae Girlz team that played in the FIFA Women’s World Cup last year, the first Caribbean nation to do so, and she is the country’s all-time leading goalscorer for both men and women. Jamaica Football Federation General Secretary Dalton Wint praised her accomplishment, saying that she is worthy of the recognition.
“It is something that is well deserved,” he said. “Her contribution to the team qualifying for the World Cup is unquestionable. She did a fantastic job flying the flag of Jamaica very high.”
Additionally, Cedella Marley will be awarded the Order of Distinction, Commander class, for her efforts to resurrect the national senior women’s football programme. Coach Hubert Busby Jr congratulated both women for their contributions to the sport.
“They are both inspirations to [those] on the island and in the diaspora to show that we can continue to uplift each other and set a pathway for others to follow,” Busby said. “It’s really exciting, and I am proud of both of them.”
Other Order of Distinction, Officer class, awardees are Dennis ‘Howard’ Bell, for his contribution to football, and champion jockey Emilio Rodriquez, for his achievements in horse racing.