LONDON, England — Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson got her third Olympic quest off to a brilliant start this morning by qualifying for this afternoon’s semi-finals of the women’s 100m breaststroke with a new National Record 1 minute 07.39 seconds to win her heat, the first Jamaican swimmer to win a heat at the Olympic Games.
Atkinson who had swam the previous record 1 minute 08.45 seconds at the Santa Clara International Grand Prix in Northern California in early June to qualify for the Olympics told journalists she was confident going into the second round and for a place in Monday night’s final.
Getting there however will require her to swim much faster than she did this morning, “I am definitely trying to make that top eight to get into Monday’s final and I know I will have to drop some more time and make the last part (of the race) a little stronger but when asked if she thought it was possible to make the top eight she said without hesitation, “Yes.”
The 23 year-old Atkinson who waited for the results of the heats to flash on the screens inside the mixed zone before talking to the members of the media was 10th overall after this morning’s heats, a big jump for her after coming into the Olympics ranked 17th.
“It’s the first time I was in the (world) rankings, I was 17th in the world coming in which is a spot out of the (top) 16 so I knew I had to drop some time and I did enough to come in which is good,” she also said.’
Atkinson who swam from lane six in the third heat, went off quickly and led the field to the turn in 31.42 seconds before powering home ahead of South Africa’s Suzaan Van Biljoni 1 minute 07.54 seconds and Morocco’s Sara El Bekri- 1 minute 08.21 seconds.
The former Texas A&M NCAA 200m champion Atkinson said she felt “controlled” through the race and “I know I have so much confidence going into the afternoon session…
I’m usually a better afternoon swimmer so I am glad I finally get the chance to swim in the afternoon,” adding that her new stroke technique “felt fine.”
The race plan this morning she said was t go out early given “my pull out is usually longer than everybody else so usually I am ahead.”
In the second round however she says she will go out hard again “Though I am ahead they usually catch me because their stroke rate is a lot quicker so the plan is just to stay ahead and bring it back home in the last 50m.”
She says most likely there won’t be any adjustments for the second round, “I actually saw my race now because I was nervous about how I was going to swim because I haven’t raced in probably two months coming into taper so I was pretty nervous about how that was going to go down but it was pretty fine.”
Except for Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte and American Renacca Soni who both swam under 1 minute 06.00 seconds, Alia says all the other semi-finalists are within her range based on their times from this morning which helps to boost her confidence.