Thu | Dec 8, 2016

Atkinson handling the spotlight well

Published:Saturday | January 17, 2015 | 12:01 AMLeighton Levy
Alia Atkinson

Ever since she became the first Jamaican and first black woman to win a world swimming title in December 2014, Alia Atkinson has been thrust headlong into the spotlight. She has been in demand to make public appearances and speeches. She has also been required to be a patron for charitable events like the 2015 Sagicor Sigma Corporate Run set for Sunday, February 22.

The $25 million organisers have targeted will benefit the Jamaica Kidney Kids Foundation (JKKF) and the Cornwall Regional Hospital Neonatal Unit. The JKKF was also a beneficiary last year, but funds from the event this year will go towards further assistance for peritoneal dialysis treatment for children with mild to severe kidney disorders.

For Atkinson, though the demands on her time have increased, she doesn't see it as a burden, more an opportunity to help those in need.

"It's a way to give back to Jamaica, but not just in the swimming pool. Hopefully, this can start one of the charities in Jamaica, but hopefully, with the popularity I have got recently, I can bring it internationally and start to use PickandChoose, populate that more, and get some more international exposure as well," she said.

PickandChoose.com is a crowd-funding site that has partnered with Sagicor to raise funds for the beneficiaries from the diaspora. "So I will be using Sagicor and Sagicor will be using me to help populate such a wonderful cause, the Cornwall Regional Hospital and the Jamaica Kidney Kids Foundation."

AN INSPIRATION

The 26-year-old who delivered a heartfelt speech on why it was necessary to help this year's beneficiaries at Wednesday's launch at The Knutsford Court Hotel, said she has been handling her sudden rise to stardom fairly well.

"It's not so bad because I see it more as an inspiration to see all the things that I can do, not just for Jamaica, but for myself as well and how many avenues that I have because I have never really been into public speaking before, and getting thrust into it, I think I handled it pretty well," she said. Atkinson, who is in the process of writing a fictional children's book, spoke on why it was necessary to help this year's beneficiaries.

She now plans to grasp these opportunities to do more including finishing her fictional children's novel.

"So it is just one of the different avenues I can take after swimming, after everything is completed," she said. "But the spotlight has not been overwhelming. It's been more humbling and exciting."