Ottey bids to reach her eighth Olympics at age of 48

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The Independent Online

The Jamaican-born sprinter Merlene Ottey will race twice in four days in a last-ditch effort to become the first athlete to take part in eight Olympic Games.

Ottey, 48, will run at meetings in the Slovenian city of Maribor today and on Tuesday in an attempt to achieve the Olympic 100 metres qualifying time by the deadline on Wednesday.

Ottey has taken part in every Olympics since the 1980 Games in Moscow and her tally of eight medals is more than any other woman in track and field. She competed for Slovenia at the 2004 Games after six Olympics with Jamaica.

"Of course she wants to run at these [Beijing] Games because she would be the first ever to participate at eight consecutive Olympics," Ottey's Slovenian coach Srdjan Djordjevic said. "If there are ideal weather conditions, she could qualify."

He said Ottey has been suffering for years from an allergy that usually starts in April or May and ends in the second half of July. The sprinter, who became a Slovenian citizen in 2002, has also won 14 world championship medals, including two titles.

At the 2000 Olympics Ottey won a silver in the 4 x 100 metres relay for Jamaica to become the oldest female track and field Olympic medallist. She also has a 100m bronze from the same Games after her American rival Marion Jones last year admitted to taking steroids and returned her medals.

Ottey won her first medal – one of a record five bronzes – in Moscow 28 years ago. She has yet to win an Olympic gold medal.

Ottey may yet make the Games but Oscar Pistorius will definitely not. The Athletics South Africa president, Leonard Chuene, yesterday confirmed that the double-amputee sprinter has "no chance" of competing in Beijing after failing to achieve the qualifying time.

Pistorius, known as "Blade Runner" due to his prosthetic legs, ran a personal best of 46.25sec over 400m when he finished third at an international meeting in Lucerne on Wednesday night but fell short of the 45.55sec Olympic A qualifying mark he required. The 21-year-old therefore misses out on a place in South Africa's team.

"He did not qualify in any way because the athletes that have been selected have all run faster than him," Chuene said.