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Toward a radical middle

a time for fear
Friday, June 27, 2003  
She's got legs and she knows how to use them

Merlene Ottey is one of the most underrated athletes of all time. The fastest female sprinter to have never achieved a world record or won an Olympic Gold, in 2000 she competed at her sixth Olympic Games, having just turned 40.

Ottey has the greatest look too: her delicate, impossibly pretty features cold and taut with disdain and contempt, dyed plaits tied tight against her skull. No gurning, despite her excessive speed: her face is all solid, stony composure. The race is an insult to be stared down. That impeccable look of superiority, like Michael Johnson, but with all the grace and elegance that he so lacked, and weirdly emphasised whenever she loses. She is like the Jamacian Garbo of sprinting.

The athlete's body is something to be admired and feared, whether boosted synthetically or not, every muscle toned and conditioned to perfection, tailored in detail to each very specific physical demand. And with such excessive specialisation in contemporary athletics, and such awesome standards and expectations (and financial rewards), this reaches abnormal, ugly, almost terrifying proportions (e.g. Maurice Green's pitbull squat). But Ottey has that classic athletic body: lithe, supple, stripped down to strong bone and firm muscle

12:42 AM

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