Sport

Alia Atkinson sets new Games record for 50m breaststroke

Poised for Gold?

BY SEAN WILLIAMS Assistant Sport Editor

Friday, July 25, 2014    

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GLASGOW, Scotland — There is no doubt who has been Jamaica's star so far at the XX Commonwealth Games.

Alia Atkinson, Jamaica's poster girl for swimming, has set a new Commonwealth Games record in the women's 50 metres breaststroke. Not once, but twice in one day. Her brilliance in the pool on day one of the 12-day championship saw her swimming 30.49 seconds in her first plunge of the day, and amazingly, she came back some eight hours later to set a new mark of 30.17 seconds in the semi-finals.

The Jamaican queen of the pool has whetted appetites and has energised Jamaicans here, and certainly those back at home, that a gold medal could very well be in the making.

Though Atkinson is the gambler's choice for the top prize, her taking home the glory may not be a safe bet.

She will face a tough and hungry field in the final leap from the deck in this event, a mouthwatering contest set to start at 7:05 pm (1:05 pm Jamaica time) at the Tollcross Swimming Centre.

She's got a host of powerhouse swimming nations to beat. And they will take some beating. From Atkinson's semi-final, Canada's Tera van Beilen (second), the Scottish pair of Corrie Scott and Andrea Strachan, third and fourth, respectively, have made the medal showdown.

From the other semi-final comes Australia's Leiston Rickett (first), England's Sophie Taylor (second), Kathryn Johnstone of Scotland (third) and Australia's Lorna Tonks (fourth).

Atkinson has swum sub-30 in the event before at a short course meet in Instanbul, Turkey, in 2010. With her mellowing form, it would be unwise to wager against a repeat.

Performing in her first event of the day, Atkinson had erased Australia's Jade Edmistone's 30.51 set in her homeland back in March, 2006. The world record of 29.48 is held by Lithuania's Ruta Meilutyte.

The Texas A&M student's run of good form at these games is not from a stroke of luck, but a combination of an intense programme under the watchful gaze of coach Christopher Johnson, and an athlete driven to stake a place as a true champion of the pool.

Going into yesterday's action, Atkinson was confident in her form and her desire to propel her forward.

"It takes up a lot of energy to be nervous, so you have to relax, take it easy and then you get the results," said the Texas A&M student.

Swimming that fast on the opening day of competition is no accident, but a well- thought-out strategy, according to Atkinson.

"I wanted to set my time and then cut it down from there. I am focusing on my own swimming during races and trying different techniques. It worked well," she added.

Jamaica's swimming boss Martin Lyn was over the moon with Atkinson's super swim.

"Alia has thrown down the guantlet and has demonstrated that she is not coming here to just participate. To break a record in the preliminary stage, and with a lot more in reserve, tells you what she's up to," he told the Jamaica Observer.

"To reach a final by breaking two records is something, and I know she has more left in the tank, so we now have to hope for the best in the final," said Lyn.

Meanwhile, Jamaica's Zara Bailey finished out of the frame in her two events so far. In the women's 100m butterfly, she swam 1:04.25 minutes for seventh place in an event won by Canada's Katerine Savard in 58.13 seconds.

In the Jamaican's other event, she clocked 4:59 minutes for sixth place in the 400m individual medley. That race was won by England's Aimee Willmott in 4:39.50 minutes.

Other Jamaicans also struggled in the opening salvos of the swimming competition when Timothy Wynter, in the men's 50m butterfly, could only finish seventh in 25.79 seconds, way down the order in a sprint won by England's Benjamin Proud in 23.17.

Dominic Walter also found the going tough when he laboured to seventh in the men's 400m freestyle, posting 4:09.53 minutes. That event was won by Wales' Daniel Jervis in 3:52.44.

Apart from Atkinson's mighty race, Dominic Walter will wager his hand in Heat One of the gruelling men's 400m individual medley at 11:40 am (5:40 Jamaica time).

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