Rashaun Stewart – Contributor
At age 16, Alia Atkinson competed in her first Olympics in Athens, Greece in the year 2004. She has competed in every Olympics since. In Doha, at the 2014 Short Course World Championships, Atkinson tied the world record for the 100-meter breaststroke and secured the gold. In the process, she became the first black woman in history to win a world title in swimming and earned Jamaica’s first gold swimming medal in the World Championships. These accomplishments are merely a summary of the prolific accolades that Atkinson has accumulated.
Atkinson’s track record is highly distinguished. In August 2015, she competed at the Long Course World Championships. Her performance shattered Jamaica’s national record in the semi-final of the 100-metre breaststroke and she went on to place third in the final. She secured silver in the 50-metre breaststroke, finishing 0.06 seconds behind the winner. In the 2018 World Cup, she broke the 50-metre breaststroke world record. That same year, she went on to win both the 50-metre breaststroke and the 100-metre breaststroke at the Short Course World Championships.
Of the twenty-one events recognized by the Amateur Swimming Association of Jamaica, Atkinson holds the record for twelve events. She has also secured 26 medals during her tenure as a professional swimmer, with 12 gold, 10 silver and 4 bronze medals. Four of the gold medals are from Short Course World Championships, with the remainder from the Central American and Caribbean Games. Four of her silver medals are similarly from the Short Course World Championships, one is from the Long Course World Championships, two from the Commonwealth Games, two from the Pan American Games and the final silver from the Central American and Caribbean Games. Atkinson won two bronze medals in the Short Course World Championships, one from the Long Course World Championships and another from the Commonwealth Games.
SWIMMING HALL OF FAME
With this prodigious track record, the Olympics represent the only competition where Atkinson has competed and failed to secure a medal. To that end, her goal is to become the first Jamaican swimmer to secure a medal at the Olympics. As an athlete with her level of skill, she has the talent in spades and the drive to accomplish this goal. Thus far, she has been named the Jamaican Sportswoman of the Year thrice, in 2014, 2017 and 2018, respectively, as well as receiving the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Commander for outstanding representation of Jamaica in the field of swimming in 2018. She served as Jamaica’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the 2007 Pan American Games and the 2018 Commonwealth Games. She was named the 2014 and 2016 Female Central American and Caribbean Swimmer of the Year in Swimswam.com’s Swammy Awards. Finally, she has been inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
As a nation, it is of utmost importance that we take the requisite time to celebrate Atkinson’s feats. She has stamped her class conclusively in a demanding sport and she continues to represent Jamaica proudly on the world stage. Athletes of her caliber are a rarity and she correspondingly must be celebrated.