'We're grateful she was in final' - Swim Jamaica president pours out support for Atkinson after disappointing placing
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil:
President of Swim Jamaica, Handel Lamey, says he remains extremely proud of two-time Olympic finalist Alia Atkinson, despite her eighth-place finish in the 100m breaststroke final at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on Monday night.
Lamey, who admitted that much of what the association is trying to accomplish in terms of appeal revolves around Atkinson's profile and performances, isn't expecting the result to have any effect.
Atkinson came into the championships with medal ambitions after a strong buildup, which includes tying the short course world record and winning gold and silver at the 2014 Short Course World Championships and the Long Course World Championships in 2015, respectively.
Normally very quick off the block and over the first 50m, Atkinson was the last to touch the water and eventually finished in a surprising 1:08.10, as American Lilly King took gold in 1:04.93 for a new Olympic record.
Second place went to Russian Yulia Efimova, 1:05.50, with another American, Katie Meili, in 1:05.69, getting the bronze.
"I'm still very happy for her. She did her best; the results are there," said Lamey. "Mentally, I don't know what really happened in the race, only she can tell us that."
Atkinson has not spoken publicly since the event, except to express gratitude for the outpouring of support she has been receiving before and after the result, through her social-media pages.
"Not what I expected, but this is by far not the end. Thanks for your continuous support and positive outpouring of love ... . Jamaicans to the world," her message read.
"It certainly won't affect the programme. We know that her performance level is up there with the very best in the world, we know she has a world record, and we know what her potential is. It was just a bad day," Lamey added.
"She did her best, we are grateful she was in the final, and that was a significant achievement," Lamey noted.
Atkinson had also qualified to the final at the London 2012 Games, where she finished fourth.
Overall, Lamey rates the experience for the Jamaican swimmers as a success, with Timothy Wynter's participation in the men's 100m backstroke also ticked off as an accomplishment.
Wynter finished second in his heat, but did not advance to the next round.
"I'd say it was successful in that we achieved a significant milestone in having two swimmers at the Olympic Games, and we had Alia making the final. Many athletes come here and don't make it to the final," said Lamey, who is hoping to use their performances to continue pushing the sport forward.
"We are going to continue with our programme of identifying our swimmers that have high potential and continue to put the infrastructure in place in terms of training, finding and getting them to meets, and giving them all the exposure they need to be successful," said Lamey.
Atkinson was looking to become the first Caribbean woman to medal in swimming at the Olympics.