Atkinson enjoying every moment of ISL COVID-19 protocols

Observer staff reporter

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

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Two COVID-19 tests before travels, one upon arrival in Budapest, Hungary, and another test every five days during competition.

That's the strict health and safety measures Jamaica's swimming sensation Alia Atkinson and her peers had to accept to get a piece of the action at the second edition of the International Swimming League (ISL) in the central European country.

And one can understand why.

For aquatic athletes, dry land training could not suffice for what they are accustomed to, which is the feel of the water, as they kick and pull.

As such, many struggled to cope with the uncertainties that surrounded life, and sports in particular, after the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games, and a few other events on the calendar due to the pandemic.

In fact, outside of a few meets in Europe, Asia and Australia, the ISL competition is the first legitimate meet for many of the world's best swimmers in seven months, making it a welcome return to competitive swimming for all and sundry.

While being in a biosecure environment for six weeks is not the easiest of situations for some athletes, given the mental health concerns surrounding the bubbles, Atkinson believes the move was critical to allow for the resumption of competition.

All meets in the 10-team competition will take place at the Duna Arena in Budapest, to ensure the health and safety of athletes and officials.

“It is always exciting to be able to race, and hopefully with the safety measures in place the competition will be the best, with everyone safe. That said, being in the bubble, it is all about respect of others,” Atkinson told the Jamaica Observer.

The four-time Olympian, who is preparing for her appearance at the global multi-sport event, pointed out that the competition will do a world of good in assisting her and the others to gauge their readiness for the Games, which have been pushed back to next year.

“I am excited and motivated. This competition is a welcomed distraction and it will definitely give me an idea of where I am in training and to once again fall in love with the sport,” Atkinson noted.

“It will also determine my level of fitness having had to limit my training due to the pandemic. So I am thankful there is an International Swimming League (ISL) championship presently, where swimmers can measure their training efforts,” she added.

So far, Atkinson doesn't seem to have missed a beat, as she had an explosive start to the campaign with her new Melanie Marshall-coached London Roar team in the second match of the season.

Atkinson, 31, copped three gold medals and one silver, over two thrilling days of action on October 18 and 19, assisting her team to tally a massive 609.5 points. With that, they posted a comfortable victory over Team Iron (392.5 points), DC Trident (350 points) and Aqua Centurions (344 points).

Her gold medal-winning performances came in the 50m and 100m, as well as the 4x100m medley relay, with the silver medal coming in the 100m individual medley (IM).

These performances, Atkinson said, underline their intentions for the remainder of the season, as they placed their nine competitors on notice that they are in for some tough competition in the battle for the coveted title this year.

“As always, I am energised whenever I get a chance to have the Jamaican flag flying high. It's great being a part of the London Roar team; you can trust the members and lean on them as well, because they are just as strong as you,” she shared.

“I enjoy competitions where I am in a team environment and competing in relays, and the London Roar will be swimming our way into the top finals,” Atkinson, formerly of Team Iron, declared.

Though missing the usual packed arena and loud cheering of the crowd, Atkinson says the confidence level remains high, as she seeks to add to her personal tally and that of her team's in their second match against the DC Trident, LA Current, and Tokyo Frog Kings on Friday and Saturday.

LA Current are in pole position in the clubs' season standings on six points from two matches, with Atkinson's London Roar jointly second on four points with Cali Condors of San Francisco.

Defending ISL champions Energy Standard, Team Iron and Tokyo Frog Kings are next on three points each, followed by DC Trident, Aqua Centurions, and Toronto Titans on two points. NY Breakers are the current cellar dwellers on one point.

“The energy is always at a maximum with the swimmers on the pool deck, but the roar of a crowd is sorely missed,” Atkinson stated.

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