AFTER taking two silver medals in the 50m and 100m breaststroke at the 2012 World Short Course Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, Alia Atkinson will be headed to Barcelona, Spain, this July for a chance to make it to the top of the medal podium at the World Long Course Championships.
Atkinson, 24, with a long list of accolades to her name, was named runner-up to Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce at the 2012 RJR Sports Foundation Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year Awards on January 14, and the People's Choice Performance of the Year for her fourth-placed finish in the 100m breaststroke at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
"It was one of the better years I've ever had. I put myself on the international map along with Jamaica swimming, so that's always good," she told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview.
She is prepared to continue her international exposure in a bid to improve her chances of earning a medal soon.
"I'm trying to go around and see if I can get more experience outside of the US and the Caribbean, so I'm trying to see if I can get more international swimming... European swimming, Asia swimming so that's what I'm routing for."
Atkinson, who was still on a high from her third Olympics, said she is spurred on by her achievements in the British capital and the words she has received from well-wishers.
"People always remind me of how well I did, so that's definitely pushing me for the next couple of years," she said.
"I want to make sure that what happened at the Olympics wasn't a one-time thing. I want to continue what I was doing and show that Jamaica can be on different world scenes and have different medals, especially since it was Jamaica's first so that was always first."
Shortly after the Olympics, it was revealed that for Atkinson to maintain her programme and bid for a qualifying spot at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, it would cost in the region of $10 million dollars.
The figure is a hefty sum and the young swimmer, who also claimed medals at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, stated that much of the drive to go as far as she did came from within.
"Swimming is what it is. At this point we can only go with what the other programmes are doing. We are way behind what the US or Australia or Japan is doing, but to get the funding or to get some sort of support for the other athletes would go a long way because I came fourth with little to nothing, so the dedication and the heart is a lot."
However, Atkinson is aware that many other younger swimmers would like the opportunity to make it internationally as she has.
"I don't believe everything should come down to one swimmer. But then again the accolades that I make also help them put Jamaica on the map and then Jamaica swimming should be starting up with the youth and the experience that I get I can use to run clinics for the youth."
Her goal is to achieve a medal at every regional or international swimming event at which Jamaica has not yet medalled.
So far she has won medals at the Pan Am and the Central American and Caribbean Games and has now set her sights on the World Long Course Championships and the Commonwealth Games.
"I have a goal every year (and) that keeps me in check and just doing things that I haven't done before," Atkinson noted.
She keeps herself motivated with positive words from family, friends and Jamaican friends on social media.
"Definitely the Jamaica vibe is always there," she concluded.