Alia on fire

Atkinson continues rich form on World Cup circuit

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

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JAMAICA'S champion swimmer Alia Atkinson continued to fine-tune for next month's FINA World Short-course Swim Championships in Hangzhou, China, as she produced top performances on the final day of the World Cup stop in Tokyo, Japan, over the weekend.

Atkinson maintained her scintillating form with another victory in the 50-metre breaststroke on Sunday when she stopped the clock in a blistering 28.95, just off her world record effort of 28.56 set in October.

After entering the final as the second seed following her in 30.30-clocking in the preliminaries behind Russian Yulia Efimova's 30.23, Atkinson again turned the tables on her rival on the back of a brisk reaction time of 0.64 to the Russian's 0.68.

With an advantage already from the gun coupled with her impeccable underwater work, all eyes were on the clock in anticipation of another world record swim, as Atkinson had the field in her wake powering to the line for victory.

While she did not lower her record, the Jamaican 'darling of the pool' registered what was her second fastest time of the season, finishing ahead of Efimova, who touched in at 29.56 and Australian Emily Seebohm in 29.99.

The 100m breaststroke on Saturday's second day of action at the Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Centre, was always expected to be another ding-dong battle between Atkinson and Efimova, but the Jamaican again proved too strong for her Russian counterpart. She won gold in 1:03.09.

Atkinson, the world record holder in the 100-metre breaststroke, her pet event, had earlier showed her class by comfortably clocking 1:05.14 in the heats and expectedly progressed to the final as the top seed. Efimova was second seed with a time of 1:05.65, with compatriot Vitalina Simonova (1:05.69) seeded third.

In the final, both Atkinson and Efimova left the blocks with an identical reaction time of 0.67, but that would be where the similarities end.

Atkinson, known for her excellent underwater technique, again placed that on display as she took the early advantage, with a 50m split of 29.67, shadowed by Efimova in 29.78.

And there would be no waning of strength from Atkinson in the second half of the event where she had a split of 33.42 to secure a second consecutive win in the event this season.

Efimova was second in 1:03.42, with Great Britain's Siobhan O'Connor – who was seeded fifth from the heats with a time of 1:06.46 – snatching the other podium spot in 1:05.07.

Despite clocking her fastest split of the season, Atkinson still had a lot left in the tank, which augurs well for the potential defence of her title at the December 11 to 18 World short-course Championships in China.

This as she utilised the 100m butterfly event to increase her speed endurance as she clocked 57.79 in the heats, which was just outside the national record of 57.56 despite not placing among the medals.

The 29-year-old Jamaican entered the final as the seventh seed behind the top three of Sarah Sjoestroem (56.73s) of Sweden, China's Yufei Zhang (56.93s) and a club representative Rikako Ikee (57.41).

However, it was Ikee who took the top slot in the showpiece event in a brisk 55.31 seconds, ahead of Sjoestroem, who stopped the clock in 55.56, with Zhang further back in third in 56.18. Atkinson finished in eighth position in a moderate 58.90.

On Friday's opening day she was sixth in the 100m individual medley clocking 59.27.

Atkinson was recently conferred with the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander for outstanding representation of Jamaica in the field of swimming and being the first black woman to win a World Championships title.

Prior to that, she had already covered herself in glory by extending her lead in having the most world record swims from the region with her world record-breaking exploit in the 50m breaststroke on October 6.

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