ALIA ATKINSON — RJR Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year nominee
Quietly determine to succeed
Alia Atkinson is a RJR Sports Foundation nominee for Sportswoman of the Year. She arrived for tonight's awards ceremony on Wednesday afternoon and as is to be expected her first stop was at the offices of the Jamaica Observer where she met with members of staff including managing director Danville Walker.
From her first steps on Observer turf, it was obvious that within our midst was not only a quite beautiful and elegant young Jamaican woman but a woman who is driven to succeed in her chosen field of endeavour - swimming. Her lean, slim build, is a clear demonstration of the many hours she spends training in what has literally become her place of abode, the swimming pool.
Yet despite the harsh training regime she has to undertake in order to stay in the upper echelons of her sport, Alia's constant and radiant smile indicates a soft compassionate individual who is willing to share and help others. When you speak with Alia you cannot help being struck by her strong fixity of purpose and overwhelming desire to succeed for herself and her country. Alia Atkinson truly exudes the strength of a Jamaican woman.
At the Observer, Alia sat with reporters from the Sports Desk.
OBSERVER SPORTS DESK (OSD) - Alia welcome home and a special welcome to the Observer.
ALIA ATKINSON (AA) - Thank you very much, and thanks to the Observer for this invitation to share my thoughts.
OSD - This is the fifth time you have been nominated for the Sportswoman of the Year title. What are your thoughts on this?
AA - It a signal honour, one which I am very proud of, as it denotes that I am still performing at high standards. Further being recognised in such a manner bodes well for swimming in Jamaica. It helps to keep swimming on the map and hopefully will provide the impetus necessary for others to enter swimming and succeed.
So it does not matter whether I win or not, it about the sport one represents and to a lesser extent the individual.
OSD - In your own words, who is Alia Atkinson?
AA- (smiling and laughing) Alia Atkinson is a 25-year-old strong Jamaican woman, who represents her country in swimming, and who left Jamaica at age 10-11 to live in the United States. Alia Atkinson is very proud to be Jamaican and is willing to share her expertise and experiences with others to advance the sport of swimming and most of all, Alia Atkinson is a caring person who seeks to assist others. And yes, Alia Atkinson is a strong person with strong determination and the desire to always do well in any undertaking. Alia Atkinson has a first degree in English and finally Alia Atkinson is an introvert who trains day after day and an individual who does not yearn for the flashy lifestyle. I prefer peace and quiet.
OSD - An introvert, so you don't party and the like?
AA - From time to time, yes, but not very often. That is not my way of going about life.
OSD - You are 25 -years-old?
OSD - Isn't that a tad too old to be in swimming at the competitive level?
AA - Not at all. There are many younger swimmers, yet there are many who are at my age and beyond. Just being on the circuit you get acquainted with the other competitors and the trends are obvious. More and more you see older swimmers competing with a possible cut off age of say 29- 30. I will be 27 by the time the 2016 Olympics comes around in Brazil. After Brazil, I will seriously have to revisit my status and makes decisions.
OSD - The breaststroke is your preferred swimming stroke. Why?
AA - I can easily swim all the four strokes, but the breaststroke just comes naturally to me. I did not choose it, it chose me. It is my default stroke. (Laughing)
OSD - After your quite fabulous exploits at the 2012 London Olympic Games, you had the World Championships and the World Cup Swimming Series of races last year. Tell us about your performances?
AA - The World Cup was a disaster for me. I did not perform well at all and then the doubts appeared. Should I continue to compete? Am I good enough to compete at the highest level? The doubts were still lingering but I decided with the help and guidance of my family to continue. Then came the World Series, in Beijing, Holland, Germany, Doha and other places. I really did well in these events as you guys have reported, and with growing confidence, my performances just kept on improving. I won about four of five races and most important for me these wins and the second place finishes allowed me to earn and for the first time in my career I was able to earn a profit on my investment of training and commitment. Whew!
OSD - You were really globetrotting in 2013. Doha, China, Germany, when you have such a heavy travelling schedule, what is the size of your entourage?
AA - My what?
OSD - Your entourage!
AA - I travel alone. Only once, on her birthday, did my mother travel with me. All the others in the eight countries and the many, many, many miles, I am by myself. It is really difficult, the amount of travelling, the long delays, dealing with the different cultures and peoples, the individual training, the lack of proper resources, it is really difficult at times, but when you want to succeed these difficulties must be dealt with not as obstacles but as stepping stones which lead to success. Also being alone fits my lifestyle perfectly.
OSD - Your plight with obtaining proper funding was highlighted especially after the London Games, what is the situation now?
AA - It is better. The Sports Development Foundation offers a grant which is most appreciated and tomorrow (Thursday) the Grace Kennedy Group through its financial services division will announce a sponsorship partnership. I am extremely happy with this new development, and I want to use this opportunity to thank Grace Kennedy for having the confidence of investing in me and my future.
OSD - In your answer to a previous question, you said Alia Atkinson is willing to share her expertise and experiences with others to advance the sport of swimming. How is this manifested?
AA - I have established, thanks to family members in Florida and Jamaica, the AA Network, which seeks to garner funds to assist others. I hold clinics here in Jamaica and elsewhere and over this weekend, today (Friday), Saturday and Sunday in conjunction with my personal coach Christopher Anderson, and the Jamaica Swimming Association, I will be holding sessions with our young swimmers at the National Stadium.
OSD - In 2014, what are you striving to achieve?
AA - My major goal this year, is to medal at the Commonwealth Games. And yes, the preferred medal is gold.
OSD - Alia thanks for making it the Jamaica Observer and all the best during 2014 and beyond.
AA - Thank you for your kind wishes, and it feels good being at the Observer again.