Athletics: Sprinter Ottey runs in Student Games at age of 37

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The Independent Online
Thirteen years after graduation and at the age of 37, the Jamaican sprinter Merlene Ottey will run at the World Student Games in Catania, Sicily, today.

The Olympic silver medallist is one of the top draws at a "festival of sprint" which will bring the two-week Games to a close.

Gail Devers, twice the Olympic 100 metres champion and Ottey's great rival, will also compete, along with Jamaica's Juliet Cuthbert and Ukraine's newly crowned 200m world champion, Zhanna Pitusevich.

"I have to admit I was a bit surprised when I got an invite to the University Games because I graduated in 1984," said Ottey, who studied for four years at the University of Nebraska. "But I never got to the Games while I was a student so I wanted to come and see them. That's why I accepted the invite."

Namibia's Frankie Fredericks, the former 200m world champion, will compete in the men's competition against the Canadian Bruny Surin, America's Dennis Mitchell and the Ezinwa brothers from Nigeria.

The invitation event, organised by the International Amateur Athletic Federation to put the spotlight on the end of the Student Games, gives Ottey another chance to beat Devers.

Ottey, who has never won an Olympic gold, lost to the American in Atlanta and at the 1993 World Championships in Stuttgart.

Devers, who failed to win an individual sprint medal at the World Championships in Athens earlier this month, said today's 100m was an opportunity to run after sustaining injury two months ago.

"I'd never been to the Student Games before so I wanted to come. Also, this is a chance to run again after what hasn't been a very good season for me," she said.

"I got injured in June and although it's getting better the season's basically over. I feel this season my body's been telling me to rest a while. Hopefully I can come back properly next year."

The men's race is without Michael Johnson, the world and Olympic 200m champion, who pulled out last week due to a recurring thigh strain.

Surin wants to show his true ability after recording a disappointing 10.12sec in Athens. "For me this is another opportunity to run a good time after the disappointment of the World Championships," he said.