Merlene Ottey - then a spritely 47-year-old competes in the women's 100m at the World Athletics Championships in 2007. Source: AFP
Veteran sprinter Merlene Ottey's failed world championship bid could spell the end of her career
From: The Australian
August 18, 2011
SHE is 30 years older than the competition, yet it is only now that Merlene Ottey's remarkable sprinting career is starting to slow.
The veteran sprinter, 51, has failed in a bid for her ninth world championships, after her team missed qualifying for the 4x100m relay with her adopted country Slovenia.
She and her teammates missed the qualifying cut-off for the Daegu, South Korea, event by a combined 0.76 seconds.
Jamaican-born Ottey is the oldest track and field athlete in history, holds the record for most medals won and holds the record for the most Olympic Games contested.
She began her turn on the international stage at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, and recorded seven Olympic Games appearances until she failed to qualify for the 2008 Games.
Along with celebrated US sprinter Carl Lewis, Ottey is the only athlete to have won 20 medals at the Olympics and world championships combined.
Ottey relocated from her native Jamaica to Slovenia in 2002, to continue her career.
“I’ll go on competing for as long as I can, as long as there are not four other [Slovenian] girls faster than me,” she said in an interview last year.
Ottey's ability to keep competing despite her age is remarkable considering the peak age of so-called "superathletes".
A study by the University of Pittsburgh on peak performance found the most successful age for athletes had not substantially changed over the last 100 years.
The mean age of female Olympic gold medal winners for 100m was 21.4 years, while 800m winners had a slightly older mean age of 24.
Tennis players peak at 24 years of age, golfers at 31, and baseballers tend to peak in their late 20s.