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Alia all the way, says dad

Published:Wednesday | May 13, 2015 | 5:00 AMHubert Lawrence
Atkinson

Months after his daughter Alia Atkinson took gold in a world record-equalling time at the 2014 Short Course World Swimming Championships, Tweedsmuir Atkinson was still beaming with pride.

During a recent visit to Jamaica, the champion swimmer's father said the entire Atkinson family was still on a high. In addition, he believes big things are ahead for Alia.

"Fantastic! Still on a high! It's not going to come down for a while," was how he described his sentiments following her success at the World Short Course Swimming Championships.

Tweedsmuir, a champion schoolboy thrower for Calabar High School, explained his family's decision to migrate years ago to facilitate his daughter's dream of becoming a world-class swimmer.

"We saw her potential and one thing that she said, 'Daddy, we can do this'.

"I said, 'OK, going to help you all the way, all the way'."

The family move connected Alia to better facilities and training opportunities. That led her to a scholarship to Texas A&M University, where she eventually became twice National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) champion in the 200-metre breaststroke.

 

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"Well, we saw her potential from the Carifta Games when she participated for Jamaica, way back then," he recalled.

"She came away, I think," he continued, "with seven and 10 gold medals."

Those performances came with a realisation.

"She can go all the way to the top and stay there," he elaborated. "She just needs help."

The elder Atkinson says the 2012 Olympics was both disappointing and encouraging. That's where she took fourth place in the 100-metre breaststroke after needing an extra race, a swim-off, to reach the final.

"She just missed it by 0.4. My God!," he exulted.

So Team Atkinson has turned its focus to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

With that background, Tweed-smuir said that her world record-equalling performance caught them all a little by surprise.

"That World gold is really 'brawta'," he said.

"We didn't really expect it so soon," he confessed, "and when it came, you would believe the excitement and the Atkinson vibes, for the Atkinson household and everyone who supports her."

Asked to give advice to parents with talented children, he said: "If you recognise your child has the potential, it is your duty as a parent to have her or him realise that potential."

He warned against parents imposing their own expectations on their children, and said: "You've got to do whatever it takes. It's your child."

Asked in the same vein to give an opinion on a family decision for Jaheel Hyde to choose track and field over football, he first declared his own bias to athletics.

Then he said: "It's a lot easier in terms how far you can go and he has so much more potential in track than football as far as I'm concerned."

- Hubert Lawrence has scrutinised athletics since 1980.