JOA President Samuda lauds determined Atkinson

Sunday, July 22, 2018

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BARRABQUILLA, Colombia — President of the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) Christopher Samuda has lauded champion swimmer Alia Atkinson for the class, grit and determination exuded in winning the country's first gold medal at the 2018 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games, in the women's 100m breaststroke 'A' final on Friday night.

Atkinson established a Games Record 1:06.83 to shrug off some late race pressure from Mexico's Villanuev Rodriguez (1:07.80), whose teammateMedina Golzalez was third in 1:10.80.

Rodriguez had earlier beaten Atkinson to break the Jamaican's 2010 record of 1:10.25, lowering the mark to 1:07.99 with a strong finish to pip Atkinson (1:08.00) on the line.

In a very competitive final, Atkinson led and built up a good lead throughout, but had to draw on her reserves and rally to hold off Rodriguez in the final.

“I'm absolutely elated; Alia has justified her credentials,” said Samuda. “It is long overdue and she has done the country very proud. It's a swim of determination, a swim of character and a swim of mental fortitude, and we only knew that she would do it well and she has done it — and we must applaud her.”

Samuda also congratulated Atkinson, co-captain of the Jamaica women's contingent and captain of the swim team, for the qualities of leadership embodied in her success.

“She has led from the front. she's the team captain and she has demonstrated strong and remarkable leadership,” said Samuda. “She has before her a career and we hope that when it does end it will end on a very emphatic note, with her being a World Champion. Well done Alia.”

Coach of the Jamaica swim team, Gillian Millwood got immense pleasure from Atkinson progress.

“In our team meeting yesterday we were just trying to get all the jitters out … we all set our goals and that's one of them, to get back to a time that's similar to when she was excelling, powerful.And there she was, went up on 30.85, really quick, really strong, really powerful, and then came off the wall with those famous underwaters that we know and love,” outlined Millwood.

“It gave us the signal that this was to be an amazing race. She came down, started to tighten up a little bit in the last 10 metres, but she put her head down, pushed to the wall and dominated that race in a Games Record. I'm absolutely proud of her; it makes us raring to go, Emily (MacDonald) is now newly inspired; Bryann Renuart, who also did the 100m breaststroke before her, is inspired all over again, and so are the gentlemen.”

Millwood added: “This is the first medal of the Games, starting us off and I'm really, really proud. We're overly motivated now and it just shows us the leadership that Jamaica's swimming has been looking for. Usually she does it on her own; she's doing it now in the team setting with five other teammates and we couldn't ask for more.”

Atkinson, meanwhile, is confident her golden performance will spur her teammates.

“I think everybody got the jitters out of their first race. I think this is everybody's first CAC and some of them it's their first international non age group meet, so it's a big step for them. And where we are now, hopefully we can ride on the good performances of this morning, but struggling in the afternoon, but getting there and getting ready, and tomorrow they'll be able to hype up and bounce back,” she observed.

“She did really well. The goal for Emily was wherever she dived off beat the person beside her and it was really cool, because she dove off with the Dominican girl right beside her so she caught her up. She held it and in the end she swam a very mature race, which is not seen for somebody who is 15, and she just turned 15,” credited Atkinson. “She swam her own race and she did it, and that only proves how great she will be later on.”

In other finals, Dols finished eighth in the men's 200m butterfly 'A' final in 2:02.41 that was won by Colombia's Noriega Gomez in 1:57.03. Michael Gunning led, but lost huge ground at the turn in the 'B' final won by Cuba's Vengata Martin (2:02.58), to finish fourth in 2:03.64; while Bryanna Renuart placed seventh in the women's 100m breaststroke final in 1:15.50 seconds.

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