Alia Atkinson mines second gold in Dutch city

Sunday, August 13, 2017

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While Jamaica's athletes, including the world's fastest man Usain Bolt, battled further disappointment at the 16th IAAF World Championships in London, Alia Atkinson, the country's fastest woman in the pool, continued to shine elsewhwere in Europe.

Atkinson copped her second gold in as many days on the Eindhoven leg of the 2017 FINA/airweave Swimming World Cup, as she once again set the Dutch city alight with an impressive display in the 50m breaststroke yesterday.

The Jamaican swimmer, the 50-metre, short course breaststroke world record holder, clocked a fast 28.84 seconds, which was just a shade off the record of 28.64 seconds set in Tokoyo, Japan, last year.

On Friday's opening day, she had also flirted with her own 100m breaststroke record.

She has racked up eight medals on the three stops of the World Cup tour thus far, following creditable displays in Moscow, Russia, and Berlin, Germany, where she won three medals each time.

After her dominant performance in the 100m breaststroke final on Friday, Atkinson entered the 50m equivalent as the overwhelming favourite.

She fired an early warning shot that the favourite tag was justified when she posted the only sub-30-second clocking with the fastest qualifying time of 29.56secs. Her long-time nemesis, Ruta Meilutyt of Lithuania registered 30.13secs in her heat. Kim Busch of the Netherlands and Denmark's Rikke Pedersen both clocked 30.99s as joint third-fastest qualifiers to the finals.

With the tone set from the heats, Atkinson went into the championship race inside the Pieter van den Hoogenband Swimming Stadium with a proverbial target on her back, but it was one that would elude her competitiors, as she left the blocks with her customary fast reaction time of 0.62. Though it was slightly slower than Meilutyt's time of 0.61, Atkinson's improved form and crisp technique propelled her to the front when they broke the water, and the rest was history.

The winning time posted by the Jamaican swim star was also the third-fastest time ever on the World Cup circuit. It was behind the second all-time fastest performance of 28.80 recorded by American Jessica Hardy when she set the world record in 2009. Atkinson's win was also her 26th on the tour.

Meilutyt was almost a full second behind in 29.57secs, again playing second fiddle to the Jamaican sensation, while Pedersen (30.25s) was third.

Also in the morning heats, Atkinson clocked the seventh fastest time of 26.28secs to break into the finals of the 50m butterfly, behind Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom who was fastest qualifier in 24.55secs.

However, the 28-year-old Atkinson failed to make the podium in the event which was won by homegirl Ranomi Kromowidjojo in 24.54secs, just ahead of Sjostrom (24.55s), with Maaike De Waard (25.46s), also of Netherlands finishing further back in third.

Despite placing eighth, the perfromance was Atkinson's second best in her 50m butterfly career, as she ended with a time of 26.03.

She will now turn her focus to the next leg of the tour in Hong Kong, China, from September 30 to October 1st.

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