Sun | May 24, 2020

“I need to get faster” - Atkinson to rev up Olympic preparation after securing Tokyo 2020 qualification

Published:Wednesday | August 14, 2019 | 12:00 AMDaniel Wheeler/Gleaner Writer

Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson will have one less thing to worry about next year.

The national record holder will be on the plane heading to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics with 12 months to spare, after winning gold in the 100m breaststroke at the second meet of the FINA Swimming World Cup at the Jinan Olympic Sport Centre in Jinan, China, on Saturday.

Atkinson crossed the line in a time of 1:07.06, to register her third gold of the series. Vitalina Simonova of Russia took silver in 1:08.03, while Jingyao Yu of China placed third in 1:08.07seconds.

Atkinson was pleased with the result despite the slower time.

“It was good. Although it was slower than I wanted, but I think it’s because I am tired after three days of competition,” she said.

Three medals for Alia

Atkinson’s total medal count so far in the World Cup increases to three, after back-to-back gold in the 50m breaststroke events in Tokyo and in Jinan, China. She is currently ranked number five in the World Cup standings after two meets with 36 points. Atkinson confirms that she will compete in the next meet in Singapore and in subsequent circuit events to prepare for Tokyo.

“We are going to Singapore, but not sure yet about Budapest,” she stated.

“The Tokyo Games will be my fifth Olympic Games, and right now I need to get faster every time I swim to prepare for it,” she added.

Atkinson missed out on her first opportunity for Olympic qualification despite finishing third in her heat of the 100m breaststroke at the first meet in Tokyo on August 3. Her time of 1:08.87 was not fast enough to qualify for the fina, with the Jamaican being edged out of the final qualifying spot by Japan’s Mai Fukasawa.

The reigning RJRGLEANER Sportswoman of the Year will compete in her fifth straight Olympic Games of her distinguished career. She made her first Olympic appearance in 2004 in Athens, Greece, and then featured at the Beijing Games in 2008. Atkinson made back-to-back Olympic finals of the 100m breaststroke in 2012 in London and 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

She finished fourth in 2012 with a time of 1:06.93 and eight in 2016 with a time of 1:08.10 seconds.

Atkinson medal cabinet includes gold in the FINA Short Course World Championships in 2014, 2016 and 2018, and silver and bronze in the FINA Long Course World Championships in Kazan, Russia, in 2015. Her 100m breaststroke Short Course World Championship win in 2014 in Doha was historic, becoming the first black woman to capture a swimming world title. She has also won medals at the Commonwealth Games, Pan American Games and the Central American and Caribbean Games.