Atkinson swims 5 events to assist London Roar to victory at ISLTuesday, September 14, 2021
BY SHERDON COWAN
SHE may not have been able to repeat her double-winning feat from the previous match, but the workload took on by Alia Atkinson in match six saw her playing an instrumental role in London Roar's compelling victory in Naples, Italy, on Sunday.
Atkinson, who started the third edition of the International Swimming League (ISL) with fairly comfortable victories in the 50m and 100m breaststroke, was asked to take on a more gruelling task on this occasion and, without question, she delivered like a true team player.
The Jamaican stalwart swam three events — 200m breaststroke, 50m breaststroke and 4x100m medley relay — in just over an hour on Saturday's opening day, and then returned on Sunday to swim the 100m breaststroke and the 4x100m mixed relay.
From those five events Atkinson snared 34 valuable points in assisting London Roar to 529.5 points as they turned back the challenge of defending champions Cali Condors (478.5 points), Tokyo Frog Kings (379.5 points) and Aqua Centurions (376.5 points).
With the victory London Roar moved up to fourth on seven points after two matches, behind Cali Condors (11 points) and LA Current (nine points) from three matches each, while third-place Energy Standard have eight points from two matches.
Atkinson got the show on the road outside her comfort zone in the 200m breaststroke where she started well but faded into sixth position at the end, in 2:22.11 minutes. Cali Condor's Lilly King (2:16.83) finished tops ahead of Atkinson's teammate Annie Lazor (2:20.31) and Martina Carraro (2:21.22) of Aqua Centurions.
The 32-year-old Atkinson returned just over 40 minutes later to contest her more preferred 50m breaststroke, but may have been drained by the earlier event and, as a result, had to settle for fourth in 29.82 seconds.
Arianna Castiglioni (29.46secs) of Aqua Centurions and the Cali Condors pair of King (29.62secs) and Molly Hannis (29.75secs) were the top three finishers.
After another 40-minute break, Atkinson was again back on deck to swim the breaststroke leg on the medley relay team.
She clocked 1:05.34 minutes to assist London Roar to third in a time of 3:50.43 minutes, behind Cali Condors (3.47.70 minutes) and Aqua Centurions (3:49.45 minutes).
On Sunday, a slightly freshened Atkinson secured her best individual finish of the match, placing third in the 100m breaststroke in 1:04.05 minutes. The event was won by King (1:03.54) with Castiglioni (1:03.90) in second.
And the Jamaican returned shortly after to clock 1:04.31 on the breaststroke leg to help London Roar's A team to victory in the 4x100m mixed medley relay. Atkinson's team clocked 3:35.57 minutes, beating the other Roar team (3:36.47) into second, with Cali Condors (3:37.04) in third.
It could be argued that a much better strategy would have been for Coach Steven Tigg to rest Atkinson for her more favoured events in which she holds the world short-course records.
However, the fact that she scored in all five events indicates she employed a workmanlike display which will set her up nicely for the remainder of the season, especially given the fact that she recently returned from break since her fifth Olympic Games appearance.
This third season of the ISL will take place in three phases. Naples is serving as host for the first phase, also known as the Regular Season, which will see the 10 clubs competing over a six-week period in a 'bubble' setting of sorts, similar to what transpired last year in Budapest.
Once the regular season concludes at the end of September, the league will take a break before resuming with play-off action in Eindhoven in November, when the top eight clubs will compete for a spot in the ISL final.
The ISL Grand Finale is set to take place at the end of December.