BARCELONA // Fifty-year-old Merlene Ottey became the oldest athlete to compete at the European Championships when she anchored Slovenia's 4x100 metre women's relay team yesterday. Ottey, a naturalised Slovenian who is Jamaican by birth, beat the record previously held by the 47-year-old French marathon runner Nicole Brakebusch-Leveque. Ottey said competing at 50 meant as much as any of the 29 medals she has won at major competitions since her debut in 1979.
"I don't know if there's any athlete over 40 competing out here in sprinting, so to be competing at 50 is great," said Ottey, who added that she hopes to qualify for next year's world championships in South Korea. Ottey competed at seven Olympic Games, starting with Moscow in 1980. She won bronze in the 200 in the 1992 Barcelona Games, when she was 32. But she said running now was providing new challenges. "I find the challenge great, it brings me greater joy to compete with people that are younger. It didn't cross my mind that I would still be running now. I thought I would retire."
Slovenia failed to reach today's final, finishing seventh in their heat with a time of 44.30secs. * AP