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Ottey keeps on going

BARCELONA, August 2 – Slovenia failed to reach the final of the women's 4x100m relay at the European Championships, but 50-year-old Merlene Ottey intends to keep on running.
The former Jamaican sprinter became the oldest athlete in the history of the competition after surpassing the record held by 47-year-old French marathon runner Nicole Brakebusch-Leveque.

And despite her disappointment, Ottey is not ready for retirement yet and is stunned by the media obsession with her age.

"I’m surprised what all the fuss is about because I’m running badly. When I was younger there was no pressure on me. I was a nobody and so I never got bothered," she said.

Ottey aims to improve her current best time of 11.67sec to 11.5sec and says she has no intention of hanging up her spikes.

"I don’t see the end at the moment. My goal now is to try and qualify for the World Championships and as for the Olympics (in 2012) ask me after that," she said.

"It’s fun now because I can enjoy running and I am not looking for the times as much as I used to do.

"Taking part in the relay was as good for me as winning all the medals. I don’t know if there are any other 40-year-old sprinters around never mind 50 and I never thought I would be here."

It’s all a far cry for the athlete who began competing in local races in the Caribbean, often in barefoot.

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Her potential was realised after moving to study in the United States and she claimed her first Olympic medal, a bronze, at the Moscow Games in 1980, aged just 20.

In a distinguished career at both 100m and 200m, she is known for her elegance on the track as much as the 29 medals she has achieved in major sporting events.

Her 100m personal best was 10.74sec set in Milan fourteen years ago.

The many records to her name include having attended seven Olympics and winning nine medals although she never managed the dream of gold.

Her closest was in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics when she was just a hairsbreadth behind Gail Devers.

Her 14 World Championship medals between 1983 and 1997 are also a record.

Controversy at the 2000 Sydney Olympics over claims she was only included in the Jamaican team because of her name led her to quit and she began competing for Slovenia.

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