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Swim fraternity salutes Alia Atkinson

Observer staff reporter

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

JAMAICANS home and abroad have heaped praises on swimming stalwart Alia Atkinson for almost single-handedly placing the country on the world map of swimming and providing a platform on which the sport can build.

The tributes came shortly after the five-time Olympian announced that she had called time on her pursuit of an elusive Olympic medal, following a third-place finish in the 100m breaststroke heats that saw her failing to progress to the semi-final at the Tokyo Games on Sunday.

Though fate didn't allow her to snare the only piece of silverware missing from her cabinet, Atkinson's Olympic journey, which started at age 15 in 2004, is nothing shy of exceptional and represents just one aspect of the pride and glory that she brought to Jamaica's shores in a truly phenomenal career.

By all indications the 32-year-old will stick around for another season of the International Swimming League (ISL) to represent London Roar, but for now Atkinson's compatriots are saluting the legend in her own right as she takes the curtain call on the Olympic stage to a particularly gratified audience.

Britain-based swimmer Michael Gunning said his life and swimming journey would not have been the same without Atkinson, who was the first black woman to win a world title in 2014 in Doha, Qatar.

“I am beyond proud of you, Alia. Five Olympic Games and inspiring a globe that anyone can swim, if they put their mind to it,” Gunning shared.

Aquatic Sports Association of Jamaica (ASAJ) President Martin Lyn expressed pride at the manner in which Atkinson flew the country's flag in aquatics, mostly by her lonesome, in her five Olympic appearances.

“She has made us proud and she definitely excelled. I wouldn't judge her on one or two performances alone, but on what she has brought to Jamaica in terms of world recognition. We at the ASAJ will use what she stands for to guide and help our younger swimmers, all of whom want to become future Olympians,” Lyn told the Jamaica Observer.

Kaizen Swim Club's Head Coach Rory Alvaranga echoed similar sentiments.

“Alia has had an illustrious career that has paved the way for many. As a five-time Olympian we are talking about 21 years of competing — and even more years of training. She has made Jamaica very proud and we just salute her. Darling of the pool, queen of breaststroke, world record holder,” Alvaranga said.

Gillian Millwood, head coach of Y Speedos Swim Club, lauded Atkinson for her resilience and courage through adversity.

“You can never look at a swim that Alia has done and say that she didn't do her best. If anyone isn't grateful of what she has done then they just don't understand what it takes to perform at this level for so long, from age 15. We are extremely proud of her and wish her the very best,” she shared.

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