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.

Barbados Aquatics said it is willing to host the 2021 Carifta Swimming Championships next Easter once the governments of the participating nations agree to certain travel protocols. The meet would be held from April 3-6, 2021.

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.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Dylan Carter of the LA Current edged closer to his national record in the 100-metre backstroke after finishing fourth in the event as action in the International Swimming League in Budapest resumed on Sunday.

Carter erased his season best of 51.28 from a just over a week ago when he stopped the clock in 50.85. His form has been improving as competition in the ISL intensifies. He has witnessed improvement in his  opening speed as well as his ability to maintain speed in the latter stages of the race.

On Sunday, Carter was second at the half-way mark before finishing fourth.

Notwithstanding the fourth-place finish, Carter is putting the national record on notice that it is in jeopardy of being lowered before the end of the  ISL season. Carter is now the only swimmer in the CARIFTA and CCCAN federations to have gone below 51 seconds and he has now done it twice.

The race was won by Ryosuke Irie of the Tokyo Frog Kings in a time of 49.91,threatening his Japanese national record of 49.65. Irie won the bronze at the World Championships in this event in 2014 in 50.12.

Second place went to Irishman Shane Ryan of the Toronto Titans in 50.22. The reigning World Championship silver medalist in the 50-metre backstroke lowered his national record from 50.41.

Third place went to Ryan Murphy, Carter’s teammate and the current long-course World Champion in 50.42. The LA Current’s Team Manager Lenny Krayzelburg swept the backstroke events for the US at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

The LA Current took the win with 535.50 points. The Tokyo Frog Kings were next best with 506.5 points. Third place was occupied by the Toronto Titans with 401 points. The Aqua Centurions re fourth with 260 points.

 

 

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

President of the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), Keith Wellington, is urging student-athletes to continue training for their various disciplines, in order to be in a position to capitalize on any opportunities to compete in this academic year.

The governing body for Jamaican high school sports has already cancelled all sporting activities for the remainder of 2020 due to a spike in COVID-19 cases across the island.

According to Wellington, ISSA is now using the period to assess what events, including the ones that were scheduled for this semester, could be held next year.

He pointed out that sports like table tennis and swimming are among the favourites to see competition first in 2021.

Wellington suggested that sports like basketball, football, netball and track and field might be the most difficult to stage.

Specifically speaking to the popular ISSA Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships, Wellington told the Commentators podcast, “I know that a lot of people would have said athletics provides for social distancing.”

“On the field of play it does but if you think of our track and field activities, it doesn’t have to be that way, the norm is that you have persons travelling right across the island, thousands of kids from dozens of communities across the island,” he added.

“That is something that would be difficult in this time because you could have somebody from Hanover travelling to Calabar to participate in a meet…they come into contact and right away you have a spread right across.”

Speaking with Donald Oliver and Ricardo Chambers, Wellington also made it clear he did not see testing as an option, at the moment, for any sport given the financial costs associated. 

However, the man who took over the top job in June 2019, says he is committed to ensuring that student-athletes across as many sports as possible get opportunities to compete.

To athletes, he said, “all is not lost.”

“We define luck as preparedness plus opportunity. Right now, there is little opportunity, but you still have a responsibility to be prepared so that when that opportunity comes you will be lucky.”

“I would say to them (athletes) to do all that you can to prepare yourself mentally and physically to play sport. We at ISSA are serious about providing that opportunity to make your luck and we are going to do whatever we can to provide you with the opportunities in whatever format.”

 

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.

It’s difficult for our voices to be heard and our stories to be told around the world when one resides on an island in the West Indies.

It comes with the territory of being the smallest in the room. Other nations puff out their chest and roar, and because of that noise, our expressions are akin to squeaks. What is lost in all that noise? Truth.

American sport is huge! They’ve made it so. We have bought into the hype that a U.S. city can win a national basketball title, labelled ‘World Champions’. Incredible.

And we’ve also fallen into the trap of using American analogies to bring home a point. For e.g., the headline for this opinion piece.

However, it has become the language we speak when we try to make reference to something monumental. Pardon my use, this one time.

Who are some of the greatest athletes of all time?

Some names come into the discussion right away. Pele, Michael Phelps, Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Garfield Sobers and Tom Brady would be some of the names listed. And immediately your brain fires off names which should have been listed.

In 2012, Usain Bolt said he wanted to be remembered as one of the greatest of all time, to be mentioned with the likes of Ali and Jordan. He felt that defending his Olympic sprint double in London would go a far way in making that case. And of course, Bolt went on to do just that and more.

In 2016, he went further into unchartered waters by becoming a sprint double champion at the Olympics for the third consecutive time. Bolt was the most dominant force in the sport of track and field from 2008 to 2016. And many would argue that, that was athletics greatest era, not only because of the Jamaican but because of his competitors.

Another great Jamaican athlete Yohan Blake, despite the ridicule he received by many on his island home, was correct. He, as well as the rest of the world’s best athletes, were overshadowed during that time. Blake is the second fastest over 200 metres at 19.26 seconds. He is also the joint second-fastest over 100 metres at 9.69 seconds. His lone individual world title came in the aftermath of a shocking Bolt false start in 2011.

The phenomenal American sprinter Tyson Gay was born in the wrong era too. He holds the American 100-metre record of 9.69 seconds. The previous American record of 9.71 seconds was set at the World Championships in Berlin in 2009, and by all indication should have been good enough to win gold … except, Bolt ran 9.58 in the same race.

Overshadowed.

When Bolt was young, we all thought he would’ve been remarkable at the 200 metres and the excitement would have been amplified when he became the youngest ever male winner at the World Junior Championships at 15 years and 332 days, back in 2002 in Kingston.

The fact that his foray into the 100 metres began as a light-hearted moment with his coach Glen Mills seems so preposterous now. It’s all part of the folklore. It’s all forged in history.

We speak of Usain Bolt as if he is an old man, but he turns 34 on Friday, August 21. I remember interviewing him on the telephone upon his return from Osaka in 2007 where he finished second in the 200 metres behind Tyson Gay. I was one year his senior, and I was able to relate to his unbridled joy and sense of relief that he finally made an impact on the world stage. That silver medal is almost like a footnote now.

What are the traits an all-time great athlete should have?

They should have been the best in their sport over a sustained period of time (which is the lowest denominator). They should have statistics, records and titles or championships to back their claim. And they should also be transcendent. How did they impact the sport or change the game?

Who else has dominated their sport to the degree which Bolt has done in what was supposed to have been a competitive era? The American swimmer Michael Phelps, the most successful Olympian of all time with 28 medals, including a record 23 gold, is the first athlete who comes to mind. He was the most successful Olympian for four straight Games. He had set 29 individual records in the pool, and he presently holds on to one.

Muhammad Ali also comes to mind. He had a larger-than-life persona in and out of the ring. He was arrogant enough to think he could beat the likes of Sonny Liston and George Foreman… and he did. But he also lifted up his race, which was his biggest fight. He utilised his voice against injustice in ways we hadn’t seen before or since.

It is difficult to gauge the impact of team players. However, Pele stands out for winning three World Cups over the span of 12 years. And Michael Jordan revolutionized basketball and made it global so much so, everyone wanted to be “like Mike”. Thanks, Gatorade.

And of course Tiger Woods. As far as the eye test is concerned, is the best many have ever seen. However, in a sport which is singular in nature, the fact he is still 3 majors behind Jack Nicklaus (18) puts an asterisk beside his name, for now.

Notable Mention

Notable mention must be made of “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky who has been regarded as the greatest ice hockey player of all time. He has 61 NHL records, but he doesn’t have an Olympic medal.

We see you fam… we see you.

It is reasonable to assume, running, is the oldest sport known to man. There is some evidence based on drawings in caves in 3000 BC that wrestling was also right up there as one of the ancient pastimes. However, when stripped to the bare bones, for hundreds and hundreds of years, the best athlete was considered to be the one who could run.

Archery, Swimming, Boxing and even Hockey are all considered ancient sports.

Bolt deserves his place with the elite. And any serious sporting discussion, even the ones in the United States of America, should show the Jamaican the respect he deserves.

Bolt, Phelps, Ali and Pele are on my Mount Rushmore.

Donald Oliver is a football and cricket commentator and a senior producer at SportsMax. Learn more about him at www.thedonaldoliver.com or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Lately, discussions surrounding self-identity as blacks (how one's characteristics are perceived in society) have become difficult to ignore.

Spaces like the Artistic Swimming community where historically there has not been much diversity, are slowly changing that with more representation.

However, it’s neither here nor there for Ajoni Llewelyn, an experienced synchronised swimmer for the Jamaica Synchro team. The 19-year-old says she’s never felt out of place because of her skin complexion or natural hair at competitions. Instead she focuses solely on the sport she loves.

 

This Q&A explores the almost 11-year journey she describes as “long, rough, challenging and fun.”

 

Melissa Talbert (MT): What’s the most challenging thing about being a synchronised swimmer?

 

Ajoni Llewelyn (AL): For me, the most challenging thing about synchronised swimming is learning parts of a new routine and memorising the counts for every movement.

 

MT: What’s the best thing about being a synchronised swimmer?

 

AL: The best thing about being a synchronised swimmer is that I get to help my coach make up routines with the help of others and teach younger girls how to swim.

 

 

MT: What are some accomplishments you’ve had as a synchronised swimmer?

 

AL: Height is required in everything! One accomplishment would be improving my height in my vertical (upside down in one straight line). Besides that, I have many accomplishments in competitions and ones that happen in training. I would say Carifta 2018 was a big one because I was first in the duet Junior. My participation in the Central American Caribbean Swimming Federation (CCCAN) competition is also an accomplishment though I don’t remember my placement. I just really appreciate moving from one stage to another; gaining growth, wisdom and strength.

 

MT: Where do you see yourself in five years?

 

AL: Coaching!

 

MT: What are some obstacles you've overcome and how did you overcome them?

 

AL: I have had a lot of obstacles, most of them I haven’t gotten over yet. One is the pool coverage. When I swim my solo, I don't utilize the pool space enough- so now I move more.

Another obstacle? Well, I tried my best at speed swimming then injured my shoulder. That held me back in synchro because my severe shoulder pains made it difficult to accomplish anything. Even when I try ( and trust me I try) I still have shoulder issues. So even though I'd like to try new things, I have to be careful of my shoulder. Hurting my shoulder was a major setback.

 

MT: How influential are your parents in your career? (Have they helped you in any way?)

 

AL: My mother is the manager of the team so I have to push more. I have her full support in things related to swimming. My mother judges at all my swim meets and doesn’t mark me higher than anyone even though I'm her daughter.

 

MT: How important is it to have a support system?

 

AL: It's very important to have support. Why? Because it’s a very hard sport!!

My support system consists of my mother (who is the manager), my coach and my teammates. But, I really don't need to rely on anybody except for when I go to competitions and I feel like I cannot do it. I go to my teammates and they’ll say, “Okay Ajoni, you can do it! You know you can do it... you’ve done it in training...” That’s the support I get and I don't mind because it’s really good.

 

 

MT: Describe your favourite routine.

 

AL: My solo is my favourite routine. It is swum by one person and requires movement, pointed toes and energy. I’m always giving the judges expressions and I try to flow to the music. I just do as best as I can.

 

MT: Why is it your favourite?

 

AL: My solo is my favourite routine because I can enjoy myself, make small mistakes and finish it knowing I gave my best.

 

MT: What is a routine you found very difficult at first but got the hang of later?

 

AL: I found the teams (consisting of four or eight swimmers) very difficult but once I go over it in my head and remember the routine it eventually becomes easier. Plus, I know I’m replaceable so it pushes me to do better. And I have no choice but to get the hang of things because I’m the eldest in my group and I have to be an example to the others.

 

MT: Do you see a lot of girls who look like you at competitions?

 

AL: No. We mostly compete in the Caribbean and in our region it’s mostly Hispanic, French and sometimes white athletes.

 

MT: If you could give advice/tips to up and coming synchronised swimmers, what would it be?

 

AL: I would tell them to be ready to have a mindset to work hard through good and bad times. Every time you work hard in whatever you do, it will pay off in a good way.  

Cailyn Morgan did enough to get Jamaica noticed during an artistic swimming tournament over the weekend.

Beyoncé released a preview of her new visual album called ‘Black is King’. Though little is known about the project’s details, an outpouring of gratitude from synchronized swimmers signalled that they were featured in it.

Aquabatix USA, a professional synchronized swimming team “delivering innovative, award-winning water performances for live event entertainment and underwater productions and projects across America,” shared a clip of the visual on their Instagram page with a lengthy caption attached.

After acknowledging the impressive synchro skills Beyonce showcased in the visual, and recognising the efforts of two of their athletes as well, the team cut their self-praise short to thank Beyonce for allowing Jamaica’s Synchro team to make an appearance in the visual too.

“@beyonce showing off her incredible synchro skills. A couple of @aquabatixusa performers appear in #BlackisKing BUT we want to make this more about the brilliant @jamaica_synchro team that feature and how happy we are Queen Bey recognised their talent and artistry to cast them.”

Jamaica’s Synchronized swimming team, Island Aquatics Synchro club, according to their website is based in Kingston, Jamaica and the team is coached by double Olympic Gold Medalist Olga Novokshenova.

The group was featured in a New York Times Article titled, ‘Jamaica Has Never Had Olympic Synchronized Swimmers. These Girls Want To Change That.’

The article discussed the struggles faced by the girls of the Island Aquatics Synchro club around the time it was published on January 29, 2018.

“Attracting and sustaining new members is one of the biggest obstacles of trying to reach their Olympic dreams,” as “the athletes had their hearts set on qualifying for the duets category for the 2020 Summer Olympics.”

The heartfelt caption by the Aquabatix USA also accepts this is a problem faced by synchronised teams globally.

“Synchronised swimming (now known as artistic swimming), like most of aquatics worldwide is unfortunately still dominated by white people. For no other reason other than opportunity. If people of the BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) community are not given the same opportunity and access to learn to swim, the less POC (people of colour) there are having the opportunity to access grassroots competitive synchronised swimming and then the less POC we see at the Olympics and also in the entertainment and production side of what we do. Also, the less POC then qualify as swimming and aquatics instructors/coaches, and as choreographers in synchro. It is so important to have POC synchro stars as role models to inspire younger generations and for them to say, that will be me one day.”

“There is no excuse for this lack of opportunity anymore. Everyone should have equal opportunity/access to learning to swim, enjoying the chance to try artistic swimming and to excel in it.”

The Island Aquatics Synchro club athletes are a force to be reckoned with. These girls are making the black community proud with their achievements and resilience.

According to Aquabatix USA, “The Jamaican synchro team is a competitive team, developing and working really hard, giving the opportunity of synchro to many and empowering them with the benefits of this sport, progressing through competitive rankings showing the world their skill and artistry & giving them a pathway with it.”

“Thank you, Queen Bey, for casting Team Jamaica synchro in Black is King to showcase these brilliant synchro swimmers and we hope many kids will see this and want a go!”

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

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