Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson says she is honoured to have been named Champion Ambassador of the Special Olympics Movement. The announcement came on Thursday as the Special Olympics celebrated International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Atkinson is the first competing Olympic athlete appointed to the role Caribbean.

“The role of Champion Ambassador for Special Olympics defines the power of real purpose,” Atkinson told the Jamaica Gleaner.

“Special Olympics athletes meet the challenge each day to realize their full potential, and I’m honoured to have the chance to learn from them, and to share our experiences together as we strive for inclusion for those with intellectual disabilities.”

Alia Atkinson capped off her strong 2020 ISL campaign with two second-place and a third place finish during the weekend finals when last season’s runners up, London Roar, finished third.

Build, battle and get better is the motto Alia Atkinson will be using to motivate herself and her teammates as the London Roar head into this weekend’s final of the International Swimming League in Budapest.

Having to settle for three second-place finishes on Saturday, Alia Atkinson came out Sunday with a vengeance winning the 100m breaststroke in a time just shy of her world record.

The 31-year-old Olympian won the swim in 1:02.66, just out her world record of 1:02.36 in the semi-finals of the International Swimming League. It was the only time under 1:03 this year and is her fourth fastest time ever in the event.

As the London Roar make the push for the final, Atkinson stepped to meet the occasion winning by a clear 0.89s over Bennedetta Pilato (1:03.55) of reigning champions Energy Standard and Emily Escobedo of New York Breakers (1:04.31).

She was also a member of the Roar’s 4x100m medley relay team that clocked 3:46.59 to finish second to Energy Standard’s 3:45.58.

The win earned Atkinson and her team a valuable 15 points, which she added to the 12.5 points she won on Saturday.

It was another day of standout performances from the 31-year-old Jamaican who was second to Pilato (28.86) in the 50m breaststroke, touching in a quick 29.30.

Also on Saturday, Atkinson was seventh in 100m butterfly in a new national record of 57.13, breaking the record of 57.21 set on November 9.

When Alia Atkinson won the 50m breaststroke for the London Roar on Friday, it extended her win-streak to 12 dating back four years. The last time she lost a race in the 50m breaststroke was at the 2016 Short Course Championships where she won silver.

She followed up on Saturday, winning the 100m breaststroke in 1:03.75 ahead of teammate Annie Lazor (1:04.45) in a 1-2 finish that gave the Roar a 35-point lead. In between, she was a member of the London Roar’s winning 4x100m medley relay team and she also won her Skins races in 29.61 and 29.89, respectively that earned her and her team triple points.

The performances have meant that she was third in the MVP list for the meet.

But even as she continues to rack up victories for her new ISL team, the 2018 World Championship double-gold medalist believes her best performances are still to come.

“The plan is to build and get better each meet,” the 50m world-record holder said while speaking with Sportsmax.TV.

“This meet I did what I needed to secure the win for my team, but on a personal note, I would have liked to feel more ‘sprinty’ and strong in the races.  I need a bit more time to feel like my faster self. I am still 1.5 seconds away in the 100 and a second a way in the 50.”

Regarding her 50m win streak, she said there was no mystery as to why she has not lost a race in four years.

“It’s not a secret. I actually don't think about the streak and treat every race like it's the first,” she said.

At the end of action on Saturday, the London Roar hold a slim lead over the LA Current. The Roar have amassed 499 points with the Current on 478.5 points. Tokyo Frog Kings are on 446.5 points.

 

Team captain Alia Atkinson had another strong showing for the London Roar during the latest match today of the International Swimming League in Budapest. The Jamaican Olympian once again won the 50m breaststroke and was a member of the 4x100m medley relay that also finished first as the Roar produced another strong showing.

Atkinson extended her unbeaten streak in the 50m breast to 12 dating back four years when she delivered a strong performance to win in 29.66 and earn 10 valuable points for her team. It was the second time that she led the Roar to a 1-3 finish as team Annie Lazor came home in 30.20.

The Roar teammates were split by Lindsey Kozelsky of the DC Tridents who touched in 30.02.

Atkinson then swam the second leg of the 4x100m medley relay in what was another 1-3 finish for the Roar.

The team of Atkinson, Kira Toussaint, Marie Wattel and Freya Anderson won the event in 3:47.85 almost three seconds clear of Tokyo Frog Kings (3:50.41) and London Roar’s second team, who finished in 3:51.72.

Alia Atkinson and Guilherme Guido have been named co-captains for London Roar’s second round of competition set to begin on Friday.

Atkinson was impressive on debut for the International Swimming League franchise winning the 50m breaststroke on October 18. She was also a member of the Roar’s winning 4x100m medley relay team.

The affable Jamaican swimming star was humbled by the appointment.

“Such a privilege! So excited for Match #2,” she said on Instagram.

Atkinson is having her first season with the London Roar after competing for Team Iron last season. She was among 17 new additions to the London Roar roster prior to the start the current season.

Her co-captain is a  Brazilian backstroke swimmer who specializes in the sprint events and who has won gold medals at the World Short Course Championships and the Pan Am Games.

Alia Atkinson chalked up wins, her first for the London Roar, in Budapest on Sunday.

Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson believes joining the London Roar for the 2020 season of the International Swimming League (ISL) will allow her to focus on her strengths.

The 31-year-old Atkinson was among 17 new additions to the 2019 finalists, who will be seeking to go one better this year.  

Swimming for Team Iron that finished fifth in the team standings last season, the team called upon Atkinson to swim strokes, which did not allow her to be at her best for the club. However, she did perform well in her preferred breaststroke events winning the 50m breaststroke in Lewisville and the 50m and 100m breaststroke events in Budapest and London.

She is hopeful that this season London Roar will position her to compete in the discipline where she is strongest.

“I am excited to be a part of London Roar. I think this time will be a little different,” she told Sportsmax.TV this week.

“There was a lot of demand on the last team in respect to me going outside the breaststroke events so I think this time I will be able to focus more on my specialities and hopefully we will be able to make it to the finals.”

That said, she was quick to point out that there is no ill will towards Team Iron, for whom she debuted in the ISL.

“Last year was still a fantastic experience and I wish the best for all the teams, especially with the COVID situation going on, but this time I am staying closer to the green and gold,” she said in reference to the London Roar’s team colours.

The London Roar reached the Las Vegas final last season and finished second behind Energy Standard. It returns a lot of key players in season two, including team captain Adam Peaty and big point scorers Cate Campbell and Emma McKeon. The club is composed primarily of the best British and Australian swimmers, including some of the best swimmers based in the two countries, such as Andreas Vazaios and Anna Hopkin.

The Roar lost key pieces in Canadians Yuri Kisil and Finlay Knox to the Toronto Titans as well as Mireia Belmonte, who has jumped ship to Team Iron.

This year, the competition is expected to be even fiercer with the addition of two new teams - Toronto Titans and Tokyo Frog Kings. The organisers have also brought in new rules for the league that is set to get underway on October 16 in Bucharest, Hungary.

Alia Atkinson is one of Jamaica’s most celebrated athletes.

Last week one of the cable channels was showing the 2016 documentary 'I am Bolt', which captured what was happening behind the scenes with Usain Bolt, in his own words, from 2008 to his final appearance at the Olympics in 2016.

Over the course of those three Olympic Games, Bolt won nine gold medals (the 2008 relay medal was stripped) in what was one of the most dominant eras by any athlete in track and field. I had a full plate of work before me but I was not able to pull myself away even though I had already watched it, maybe four or five times already.

It still gave me goosebumps watching Bolt’s career finally take off the way many of us expected, setting world records and winning gold medals and exciting track and field fans like no one had ever seen before.

It is a critical piece of the sport’s history and Jamaica's history as well.

Before the Bolt era, there were not that many books written about Jamaica’s track and field athletes and there have been many of the latter.

For a country its size, Jamaica has produced so many superstar athletes, it belies imagination. Herb McKenley, Arthur Wint, Lennox Miller, Marilyn Neufville, Donald Quarrie, Jackie Pusey, Merlene Ottey, Raymond Stewart, James Beckford, Sandie Richards, Juliet Cuthbert, Winthrop Graham, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Brigitte Foster-Hylton, Beverly McDonald, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, Asafa Powell; the list goes on and on.

However, by comparison, so little has been documented of their respective careers.

The time has come for us to commission the production of documentaries that will provide archival material on what has been the greatest era of the country’s prowess.

From the current era alone VCB, Shelly, Melaine Walker, Omar McLeod, Sherone Simpson, and more have set records that have become necessary to document.

Not all will be a 107-minute long piece like 'I am Bolt'. The respective stories will determine their own lengths, but it is important that we have these athletes tell us their stories.

These athletes are living history and we should not wait until they are gone to have someone else tell their stories. They should be telling us their stories. VCB and Fraser-Pryce, for example, have some compelling stories to tell.

What do we do with these documentaries?

Well, the government is building a sports museum. These documentaries would be playing on big screens as be part of any tour by those interested in Jamaica’s sporting history. Copies should also be at the National Library to be used in a similar fashion.

The Ministry of Sports should have its own YouTube channel where each of these documentaries is always available to the public for general knowledge, research and similar pursuits.

This undertaking should not be limited to track and field, however.

Alia Atkinson, Chris Binnie, Ali McNabb, Lindy Delaphena, our boxers Mike McCallum, Richard Clarke, Trevor Berbick, Simon Brown, Nicholas Walters are others worthy of being documented.

As time passes, we should not be searching all over the place, oftentimes unsuccessfully, to find data on Jamaica’s incredible sporting history. Our ancestors used to pass knowledge along verbally. We have built statues to honour some of our sporting greats, the time is nigh for us to have more than just images cast in stone.

 

 

Several years ago my parents signed me up for swimming lessons. They were offered at my prep school as an extracurricular activity. It wasn’t a bad idea since I was notorious for staying at school late. The lessons were also free. I started but stopped— something felt out of place.

Every now and then I’m reminded that I didn’t continue. I’m from Jamaica so when my friends and I visit public pools like Mayfair on West King’s House Road, Christar Villa and UTech’s swimming pool on Old Hope Road, we sit on the edge of the pool with our feet in the water. On the days we feel braver, we’d sit on the steps that lead into the shallow part of the pool— allowing the water to get somewhere past our ankles.

Like other prep schools, mine was expensive. The grounds were big. Facilities were generous. Teachers drove nice cars. Food options were healthy and most children had iPods and fancy bags with wheels like they were just coming from the airport.

During the semester, the chances of a pool party happening were high. The birthday boy/girl would issue the invitations at school. Invitations were given at a premium. They would hand them out after classes as instructed by a teacher. Of course, the teacher was trying her endeavour best to make sure we weren’t distracted from class. The attempt was usually a failure. The wait was intense. Throughout the day, persons would try to befriend the inviter by bringing up any memory they had in common, just in the hope of getting a verbal invite if they weren’t on ‘the list’. “Remember that time I pushed you on the swings?” When I’d get invited verbally, I’d feel like an outcast at the party.

Even though most of us did swimming together, it wasn’t enough to make me feel a part of the group. My classmates, who genuinely got invited had more in common with the birthday boy/girl. They had similar complexion, hair type, body type and financial status, or so I believed anyway.

On Alia Atkinson’s YouTube page, ‘Watabound’, Jim Ellis speaks about diversity in swimming. He explains that a swimmer shouldn’t have to leave their community to learn how to swim. A strange environment can make them feel intimidated. When there’s no camaraderie with teammates because of differences in social status or race, it can demotivate potential and professional swimmers.

An interview titled ‘Live chat with Alia Atkinson: world record holder in 50m breast’ premiered on June 24th 2019.

Jamaica is a majority black country, but at the same time, the differences among the blacks is tangible.

In the interview, Atkinson said, “ if you have a swimmer and she’s the only person of colour on the team you have to treat her differently than everybody else in the sense of ‘hey, how are you doing today?’” She recommends that coaches check in on athletes emotionally and mentally, especially when an athlete is different from everyone else. She continued by saying, everybody has a responsibility to open the door for somebody else. It’s important to look out for others from the sport who may be struggling.

My differences weren’t embraced. Consequently, I stopped swimming. My dreams of gliding through the water with impressive strokes didn’t seem practical because other swimmers didn’t look like me.

Please share your thoughts about differences and how they are treated in sport, any sport.

Share those thoughts on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use #IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

Alia Atkinson won a bronze medal time in the 100m breaststroke at the FINA Champions Series on Tuesday, following up in the bronze she won in the 50m breaststroke on Monday.

Olympian Alia Atkinson won a bronze medal in the 50m breaststroke on Monday at the Shenzhen leg of the FINA Champions Series.

Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson has been named the 2019 Swammy Awards CAC Female Athlete of the Year.

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