Atkinson wins bronze, hunts 100m breaststroke today

Observer staff reporter

Saturday, December 15, 2018

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TO say that Jamaica's Alia Atkinson is ready to defend her 100-metre breaststroke crown at 14th FINA Short Course World Championships in Hangzhou, China today would be an understatement, as the champion swimmer's form already says it all.

Atkinson, who will be seeking the three-peat in the event she won at the 2014 and 2016 championships, has been throwing down the gauntlet all season, but yesterday affirmed her intentions when she registered the fastest time in the semi-finals.

The Jamaican after posting a time of 1:04.07 minutes in her semi-final swim will start in lane four for the 100 metre breaststroke final scheduled for approximately 6:00 am (Jamaica time). It will be one of three individual women's events in the evening session.

She is the world record holder in the event, having clocked 1:02.36 on two separate occasions, and is coming off her first ever 50-m breaststroke win at the championships.

With co-world record holder Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania failing to make the final cut, Atkinson will be hard to deny the three-peat based on her current form and only needs to maintain her composure to complete the feat.

Earlier in the preliminary round, Atkinson did just enough to ensure she made the semi-final, clocking 1:04.34, which was the second fastest time at that point behind American Katie Meili's 1:03.76.

However, Meili, who is now expected to be Atkinson's main threat, will enter the final as the third ranked swimmer and will start in lane three, following her 1:04.54-clocking in the semi-final. Australian Jessica Hansen, who was second fastest from the semis with 1:04.11, will be the other swimmer flanking the Jamaican stalwart from lane five and is also expected to prove a threat.

The 30-year-old Atkinson had earlier placed her speed endurance on display when she came from way off the pace to claim bronze in the women's 100-metre individual medley (IM) also on yesterday's fourth day of action.

She stopped the clock in 58.11 seconds, behind Hungarian “Iron Lady” Katinka Hosszu, who won convincingly in 57.26s to claim her third gold medal of the championships and her fourth consecutive in the event. Japan's Runa Imai was second in 57.985 seconds.

Ironically, the result was the same from the 2016 championship and was even more justified, as Hosszu (57.69s), Imai (58.04s) and Atkinson (58.20s) were the three fastest qualifiers from the semi-finals.

Though second fastest from the blocks in the showpiece event with a reaction time of 0.65, behind Japan's Imai (0.64), Atkinson was found wanting in eight position at the half way mark with a split of 27.91s.

This was as Hosszu (26.44s) bided her time in second behind American Kathleen Baker (26.36s), with Imai (26.75s) in fifth.

However, Atkinson made a surge of the breaststroke and freestyle legs, clocking the fastest splits of 30.20s for the second half of the race to climb into a medal position.

Baker faded into fifth position with compatriot Melanie Margalis in fourth, while Australian Emily Seebohm (AUS), who was third in 2014 and second in 2016, finishing back in sixth place.

Atkinson's Coach Chris Anderson heaped praises on his charge with expectations high for another superb performance in today's 100m breaststroke final.

“Alia had a great back half of the 100m IM, the fastest back half of the meet as far as the 100m IM is concerned, her breaststroke split was great on the third 25m and she had an amazing last 25m. So we are really hoping this carries over to tomorrow's (today's) 100m breaststroke finals, I am really, really looking forward to a great performance tomorrow night,” Anderson said.

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