André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
Alia Atkinson is on a mission to become the most successful Jamaican swimmer at an Olympic Games when she dives into action in the 100m breaststroke at the Aquatics Centre today at 10:43 a.m. (4:43 a.m. Jamaica time).
Atkinson, who holds seven national swimming records, including records for two of the three events that she will be competing in here in London - the 100m breaststroke and the 200m breaststroke - has set her sights on a medal; determined to cap a positive year and better the unrelated Janelle Atkinson's 2000 Sydney Olympics fourth-place finish in the 400m freestyle. Alia will also be competing in the 50m freestyle.
With the 'A' Olympic standard set at 1:08.49, Atkinson comes in as one of the best in the field with a qualifying time of 1:08.45, which was achieved in June, leaving the Jamaican extremely confident that she can create history in London.
"I am looking forward to first of all getting to the semi-finals, progressing to the final, and going there and doing it. My objective is certainly to give Jamaica its best finish in swimming at the Olympics and putting the country on the map, so to speak, in the sport," Atkinson told The Sunday Gleaner.
"Janelle came fourth in Sydney, and I want to do better than that here," Atkinson said before pointing out just how important it was to her to have achieved the 'A' qualifying standard heading into the Games.
'A big confidence booster'
"It certainly takes off some of the pressure on me coming into this Olympics, knowing that I am here with the 'A' qualifying standard and I am not here on the borderline, or anything like that," Atkinson said. "It is a big confidence booster for me, and I'm feeling really good about it."
Accompanying Atkinson is ASAJ president and swimming team manager, Martin Lyn, who has been impressed with Atkinson's approach in training and who believes she can meet her objectives here.
"Things have been going very well. She has been looking good all year, and she has been here for the past eight days in a little town outside of London getting ready, and she looks to be in very good shape," said Lyn.
"She is stronger and more confident, and she is in the right frame of mind to do well here. Mentally, she is fine. She has been doing well in training as I said and is in very good spirits - playful as always - and that's a good sign, that she is relaxed," Lyn added.
Atkinson, who recently made some technical adjustments to her swimming style, says she has grown increasingly comfortable with the style, and like Lyn, she believes it was a major contributor to her recent improvements.
"Yes, she recently changed her style somewhat, made a minor technical change to her cycle, and she has got it together now. She first made the change after the Pan Am Games, but it wasn't until she went to Santa Clara, where she made the Olympic 'A' standard that she really tied it down," said Lyn.
After her favoured 100m breaststroke assignment, Atkinson will turn her attention to the 200m breaststroke on Wednesday before moving on to the 50m freestyle on Friday.