LONDON, England — Alia Atkinson just missed what would have been an incredible first medal for Jamaica in the 27th Olympic Games after finishing fourth in the women's 100m breaststroke final at the Aquatic Centre in Olympic Park in Stratford, London yesterday.
Swimming out of lane eight, the 23-year-old, who came into the Olympics ranked number 17 in the world, swam 1 minute 06.93 seconds, just .17 seconds off her National Record 1 minute 06.79 seconds that she swam in the swim-off the night before after tying with Canadian Tera Van Belien in the semi-final.
In front of a noisy, near capacity arena, the former Texas A&M swimmer had a good start and was fifth at the 50m turn in 31.36 seconds, then swam the second 50 metres in 35.57 seconds, to finish behind Japan's Satomi Suzuki (1 minute 06.46 seconds), who was in lane one as Lithuania's Ruta Meilutyte won the gold medal in 1 minute 05.47 seconds ahead of American Rebacca Soni, who took silver in 1 minute 05.55 seconds.
Atkinson, who equalled Jamaica's best ever result in Olympic swimming, joining Janelle Atkinson (no relation), who was fourth in the women's 400m freestyle 12 years ago in Sydney, told reporters after the race she really wanted a medal "to show that Jamaica's swimming is up there".
She said her first aim was to finish ahead of her namesake, or "at least get where she did (and) I tied with her, hopefully this will open up the eyes of the world to see Jamaica's swimming".
Atkinson, who will start her campaign in the 200m breaststroke tomorrow morning when he swims in the heats, says she now hopes she will get the chance to continue for another four years. "Hopefully I can get some funding or sponsorship to continue until 2016 because that is definitely a possibility if I can get some financial support."
The start of the race was held up after American Breeja Larson, jumped the gun but was not disqualified as the swimmers were not under the starter's order then, but Alia said this did not throw her off in any way.
She admitted to being "a little disappointed that I did not pace third", but pointed out that even if she had swam her best time, it would not have been good enough.
Alia said she stuck to her race plan and swam a well paced race. "I did not die in the last 25 metres, I was still building and was able to hold off the two girls (to her right) one thing was I could not see the girl in lane one," she said, before joking that she was thinking she would be able to sneak up on the swimmers in the inside lanes, but quipped that maybe the Japanese was thinking the same thing as well.