Thu | Dec 8, 2016

Neita-Headley hails Atkinson

Published:Sunday | January 11, 2015 | 12:00 AM
World Champion swimmer Alia Atkinson (right) and Natalie Neita Headley, minister with responsiblity for sports, greet each other at the welcome reception held by Grace Kennedy at the Government Lounge at the Norman Manley International Airport on Friday. - Gladstone Taylor/Photographer

Shayne Fairman, Sunday Gleaner Writer

Natalie Neita-Headley, Minister with responsibility for sport, has hailed joint world 100 metre breaststroke record holder Alia Atkinson as a role model for women, a true inspiration for young people and a sterling example for current and aspiring sport professionals.

Atkinson's mark equals that of Ruta Meilutyte of Lithunia, who achieved the milestone in 2012.

Minister Neita-Headley was speaking at GraceKennedy Money Services' (GKMS) welcome home reception for Atkinson, which was held last Friday at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston .

She credited Atkinson for eclipsing a 40-year international landmark and putting to rest myths about people of African descent in the sport.

"You (Atkinson) have inspired our young people to achieve greatness, not only in swimming, but in every sphere of life," she outlined.

"Your great humility, determination and fight are the hallmarks of a descendant of Nanny, our national heroine," the sports minister assessed.

Neita-Headley added that while Jamaica's swimming fraternity is proud of Atkinson, the sport sector, young people, children and Jamaicans abroad will benefit from the swimmer's contribution to brand Jamaica.

The 27-year-old Atkinson won gold and equalled the world record in the World Championship Short Course 100 metre breaststroke event in Doha, Qatar, late last year.

This after decades of commitment and enterprising work in the sport she loves.

With those dizzying heights reached, real doors of possibilities have been opened for Jamaica in another sport.

Last year the Government pumped over $30 million to upgrade the swimming pool at the National Stadium, in Kingston, that move should, no doubt, be justified by Atkinson's achievement.

Given that sponsorship does not always readily come for the less traditional sports, GKMS' move to make Atkinson a brand ambassador in January last year, will signal to other corporate entities that there is real hope for Jamaica in other sports.

Present at Friday's event were members of Alia Atkinson's family - aunt Karen Smith Reid, her manager; her uncle Charles Campbell, and cousin Tarik Markland. "We are just proud to see Alia accomplish everything she has. It is just amazing," Smith-Reid told The Sunday Gleaner.