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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (March 31, 1999)
Otters life a quiet, private one
OTTEY from page 16
the late Florence Griffith-Joyner, who
still holds the world record in the 100
meter and 200-meter dash.
Ottey got a chance to redeem her
self one year later at the national cham
pionships in Houston. The Nebraska
sprinter finished second to no one that
“It was just when Flo Jo (Joyner)
was starting to emerge,” Pepin said. “It
was a great race.”
Pepin said he recalled many
instances in which he saw Ottey do
things he didn’t think could be done.
Ottey even tried to run against men.
Pepin said in 1982, when Missouri
came to Lincoln for a dual meet, the
coaching staff wanted to race Ottey in
the men’s 200-meter dash so she could
go up against better competition.
But the AIAW (the jurisdiction
replaced by the NCAA a couple of
years later) would not allow Ottey to
compete against the men.
“She was blessed with talents that
not many people ever have,” Pepin said.
“She is like a great piano player or a
surgeon. She was marvelous for our
She was important for Nebraska,
but perhaps more so for the country of
“The Olympics were the most excit
ing because there I was competing
against the world s best. At first I was
scared because the East Germans and
Russians were so big.”
- Ottey, on her first Olympics in
1980, in the Daily Nebraskan on March
Only 20 years old, Ottey competed
in her first Olympics in 1980 in
Moscow. She finished third in her first
major competition before she ever
arrived at Nebraska. And she’s been on
the international stage ever since.
Ottey has won 14 medals at the
indoor and outdoor World
Championships, including three golds.
Several Olympic medals have also
adorned Ottey’s neck. In the 1996
games in Atlanta, Ottey won silver
medals in the 100- and 200-meter dash
es. Ottey also took two bronze medals
in 1984, and she also struck bronze in
1980,1992 and 1996.
But one thing Ottey never did
accomplish was going to die top of the
medal stand, listening to her country’s
national anthem. Griffith-Joyner
served as a thorn in Ottey’s side, beat
ing her in the 200-meter dash in both
the 1984 and 1988 Olympics. But
Ottey never came closer than in the
1996 Olympics in Atlanta, when she
finished second to Gail Devers in the
Devers and Ottey both clocked in
with a time of 10.94 seconds. But
Devers won in a photo finish, as the
replay showed her torso touched the
line before Ottey’s.
Three years later, Devers still runs
against Ottey, last running against her
in France in February.
And while Devers said it isn’t cus
tomary for athletes to talk about
medals, Devers doesn’t think it both
ered Ottey that she has never won a
“I wouldn’t say she lets it get her
down,” Devers said “It might serve as
motivation for her. I’m sure it does.
“You go into a meet expecting to
win, to be No. I. You just have to forget
Devers said that Ottey’s ability to
run both the 100 and 200 meters, along
with her longevity in the sport, makes
her one of the greatest woman sprinters
in history, even though she has not won
a gold medal.
“When you talk about the truly
great sprinters, the (Evelyn) Ashfords
and the (Wilma) Rudolphs, you’re talk
ing about people who can be versatile,”
Devers said. “Merlene belongs in that
“Those races are just straight speed,
and Merlene has that. And in the 200m,
I’ve always been amazed at how she
can keep the speed coming off the
curve and keep it going in the straight
away. Me, I’ve never felt the ‘whip’ off
that curve. Merlene, she obviously
Ottey is more than her races. She
has become a symbol of pride for the
entire country of Jamaica.
“I ve been around for so many
years, everybody knows me. My career
took off at a very good time.”
- Ottey, in a forum with theLAAFon
her popularity in 1998
When a call was placed to the
Jamaican operator by the Daily
Nebraskan asking for a listing of
Merlene Ottey, none was given. Why?
Back to that in a moment. But the lady
on the line knew the star.
“Oh,” she said, in the familiar
Jamaican twang. “You talkin ’bout the
lady who be runnin’ for us. We all love
her. We all love Merlene.”
To simply say Jamaica loves Ottey
is an understatement, said Neville
McCook, the Executive Director of the
Jamaican Athletic Amateur
“Everyone is this country knows
her and would recognize her if they saw
her here,” McCook said. “She has done
so much for the country and the pro
Politicians are usually symbols of
most countries. In Jamaica, it is Ottey.
McCook said when Ottey visits foreign
countries, she traditionally meets that
country’s political dignitaries.
Ottey doesn’t just represent
Last year was called “The Year of
Women Athletics” by the International
Amateur Athletic Foundation. Ottey
was chosen to be the patron for the
“There wasn’t any question about
her goals,” Pepin said “She wanted to
be the best in the world.”
Ottey is now 38 years old, and will
be 39 in May. She is still racing.
Devers, who is six years younger,
said she wouldn’t take Ottey lightly if
they were matched up in the starting
blocks tomorrow or six years from now.
“When she’s 45,” Devers said, “and
if she’s is still around, and, God, I don’t
know if I’ll still be around, and we’re in
a race together, I’m still going to be
“As long as her name’s still up there
on the sheet, she’ll always be a factor.”
On the (way) down low
‘‘It’s kind of tough. I have a hard
time having any social life at all.”
Heyns still achieving
HEYNS from page 16
gold medal since 1952. Almost as
powerful as the gold medal, Heyns
reset her 100-meter world record at
the Olympics with a time of
Heyns said she gets home twice
a year now. She is busy training in
Calgary, Alberta, with her coach,
Jan Bidrman. Leaving South Africa
for Nebraska, though, was an
important step for Heyns.
She said die kind of competition
an athlete must face to compete in
the NCAA is unlike anything she
could have found in South Africa.
“The NCAA as a competition is
a kind of international meet. I don’t
think any other country in the world
can compare,” Heyns said.
And it was while swimming for
Nebraska that Heyns met Bidrman.
“He’s more than a coach,”
Heyns said. “He’s a friend. We grew
“It’s more like we’re working
together than I’m working under a
coach,” Heyns said.
Heyns also credited Nebraska
for challenging her to aim for high
“Nebraska taught me to think
big,” Heyns said.
- Ottey, on running track, in the
Daily Nebraskan on March 11,1982
As famous as Ottey has become,
she is nearly impossible to find. No,
check that. She is impossible to find if
she doesn’t want to be found.
When Ottey doesn’t want to be
found, it’s likely she won’t be. There is
one link from the outside world to her -
a combination fax/answering machine
- that Merlene’s sister, Beverly, said
“probably has hundreds of messages on
Ottey lives not in Jamaica, but
rather in the Principality of Monaco, a
tiny stretch of land tucked in the South
of France, best known for Prince
Albert, Grace Kelly and a grand prix
race. Among its 42,000 or so very rich
residents lives Ottey, although she’s
A call to IAAF, also based in
Monaco, concerning the whereabouts
of Ottey, prompts this response:
“Well, she could be in Slovenia. Or
the Spanish Highlands. Or sometimes
she trains in Florida. She’s got a coach.
But sometimes she doesn’t train with
him. But maybe she is. She said she
might be. She might even be in
Monaco. Do you have her number?”
They rattle off the number. It is, you
guessed it, the ubiquitous fax number.
The Daily Nebraskan has called
four countries, three track organiza
tions, family members, competitors,
former coaches and plenty of other
people in between. Not one of them
knows where Ottey is. Her accomplish
ments might only be surpassed by her
ability to disappear.
Because, for as many races as she’s
won, for as famous as she is, Ottey
keeps a quiet profile. Very quiet. And
when she wants to disappear, she does.
Devers said she hasn’t heard from
Ottey since last month. They’ve talked
about training together this summer,
but Devers might not see her until then.
“That’s just the way Merlene is,”
Pepin and McCook both said Ottey
wouldn’t be caught making a scene,
(unless it’s on the track, like the time
she protested a second-place finish in
the 100 meters at the 1995 World
Championships) or get too attached to
any one particular person.
“She is an introvert and an extreme
ly private person,” McCook said. “She
is serious and puts all of her effort into
the task at hand. She is a loner, and it is
just the way she is.”
McCook points out that Ottey has a
book. She makes appearances, but,
amazingly, has been able to keep so
much of her life private. Little is known
about her: she was married once, but no
longer. Personal details, so often broad
cast about celebrities in America, are
few and far between with Ottey.
‘‘Women are important in sport
when they are important in society. Of
course, sport can be used as a level to
change society ...the point is athletics,
and sport in general, is an increasingly
important channel for women to assert
their independence, their cultural
growth, their right to choose.
— Ottey, in a forum with the IAAF,
regarding her selection as the patron to
the year of women in athletics in 1998.
But, as Devers insists, Ottey is
more than just her running. She is
active in modeling and designing. She
champions women’s rights. But unlike
many athletes, her causes just aren’t
Although she is quiet, Pepin said,
Ottey is someone that was never aftaid
to tell people what she thought.
“I like her very much and respect
her even more,” Pepin said. “When you
talk to her, she is going to tell you exact
ly what she thinks. She is real special.”
Ottey was not short on feehng, and
she was also never afraid to work for
what she achieved. Pepin said it was
commonplace for Ottey to be the first
person at practice and the last one to
“It was very unusual in the sense
she was almost all business all the
time,” Pepin said. “Whatever she did,
she did it as good as she could do.”
There wasn’t much Ottey did, at
any level, that was not top-notch.
Wherever she has gone, Ottey has
impacted lives and the sport of track
and field. For that, she was voted the
greatest female athlete at Nebraska in
the 20th century.
And she may not know it yet (she
won’t likely find out until she reaches
her fax number), but her achievements
also factored heavily into this decision.
No other Nebraska athlete has been
able to match her success on the colle
giate level, and beyond.
McCook takes it one step further.
“Merlene Ottey is the greatest
female sprinter the world has ever seen
because of her durability, versatility
seeks life after
DAVISON from page 8
face lights up.
“It’s been a lot of motivation for me
to try to make everybody forget about
that catch at Missouri,” he said. “Sure,
that was a great moment in my career
and I wouldn’t take it back for anything,
but I feel I’ve had a lot great moments. I
always just wanted to do what it takes to
win: the blocking, catching a pass,
whatever it is.”
And for the 1999 season, it looks
like more of the same for Davison, who
has come into his own as a bastion of
the Husker receiver corps.
Over the course of the off-season,
Davison has improved his strength and
his speed and quickness, now posting a -
4.57 electronically timed 40-yard dash
“Some guys in life always have an
excuse and some guys in life always
find a way to get it done,” Brown said.
“He’s one of those guys that always
seems to get it done. He’s a tremendous
competitor. He understands what it
takes to win - that’s the kind of player
But by his own estimation, Davison
knows that being deemed one of the
greats in Husker receiver history is not
all glamour, and just maybe that’s where
the greatness lies.
“I wish they’d throw it to me on
every play, but it doesn’t work that way,”
Last year Davison caught 32 passes
for 394 yards for an average of 12.3
yards per catch, but he didn’t have any
In fact, he’s only got one TD on his
career, and what a score it was.
Perhaps it further explicates
Davison’s position as the multi-opera
tional cog in the Nebraska offense - the
transition man, the relief pitcher, or
catcher, as it were.
“This is why I play the game of
football,” Davison said. “So I can have
times when we need a big play, and I
can try to come through with the big
play. You prepare yourself to make
plays like that in pressure situations.”
Those pressure situations came
Davison’s way often, like at Texas
A&M where he had 10 catches for 167
yards, or where he hauled in three pass
es for 64 yards in last season’s Holiday
Brown said that in the face of such
urgency and tension, Davison has never
wavered, but enjoyed the moment.
“I saw him smiling in that Missouri
game, before the game ended, before he
made that catch,” Brown said. “AtTexas
A&M he whispers to me, ‘Isn’t this
great?’ We were down by three touch
downs before we came back. He wants
This season, as a starter, he’ll have
plenty of opportunities to do what he
loves and what he does best.
Davison’s career is more than just
one moment, one time being in the right
place at the right time, and when he’s
got the chance to prove that, he’ll
undoubtedly take it.
“I hope that everybody has the con
fidence in me that I can come up with a
play when we need it,” Davison said.
“I’m ready to step up, play more downs,
catch more passes and just be the reli
able guy out there.”
NU coach’s prophecies coming true
By John Gaskins
When you’ve been coaching for 30
years, it gets easier to make accurate
predictions about your sport and your
It seems that Nebraska men’s gym
nastics coach Francis Allen knew what
he was talking about before the 1999
season started, and he’s starting to look
like a prophetic genius.
Before the season started, Allen
said of his team, “I think there are five
or six teams that can win a national title
this season, and we are right up there
Of sophomore Jason Hardabura,
Allen said, “I think Jason is more than
capable of averaging a 57.5 and chal
lenging for an NCAA all-around title
Well, so far, Allen is right on the
money. As the team starts the stretch
run of the season, with the West
Regional coming up April 10 in Provo,
Utah, the Huskers are ranked fifth in
the nation and Hardabura has moved
from third to first place in the individ
ual all-around rankings with a 57.517
Nebraska started with a No. 4 pre
season ranking, but slipped early and
hung around the top 10 all season. But
thanks to the Mountain Pacific Sports
Federation title they captured Friday,
the Huskers vaulted themselves back
into the top five and are the highest
ranked team in the West Regional.
The rankings are determined by
team average. All four teams ahead of
NU hail from the Big 10 Conference.
Michigan is ranked No. 1 with a
229.542 average NU's average is
Hardabura has won seven all
around titles this season, including the
last three. Right on his heels all season
has been junior All-American Derek
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