Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
TWEEDSMUIR ATKINSON, father of Alia Atkinson, who advanced to today's 100m breaststroke finals in the London Olympics, said yesterday that his daughter performed for her late brother Adi, who died some years ago in a plane crash.
The senior Atkinson was rushing off to his job late yesterday when The Gleaner caught up with him via telephone at his Forida-based home.
"This has been in the making for the past 20 years. It is a great accomplishment and one of my dreams," he declared. "She has done it for her brother; he taught her to swim," he said sounding breathless, as he sprinted off to work.
In the meantime, Jackie Walter, an unyielding leader in the local swimming arena, who has been with Atkinson through thick and thin, was floating on cloud nine in light of the young swimmer's latest accomplishment.
But even in the midst of the euphoria, Walter, the former national swimming coach, expressed concern that financial challenges had threatened to sink Alia's promising career.
Walters witnessed another brilliant swimmer, Janelle Atkinson, who placed fourth at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Now she is waiting with bated breath to see whether Alia will emulate or go a place/s better - than Janelle - that is on the coveted medal podium. "We will just have to wait and see," declared a chuckling Walter.
"My association (with Alia) is long, I was there at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. I was the coach with her there. In fact, I have been pretty much everywhere at every international meet with her except in the last year," Walter disclosed.
The former coach described as "fabulous", Alia's determined performance to get her into today's finals. "What we have to look at is the fact that in 2012, she was doing a 1:10 in the 100 metres breaststroke. She is 23 (years old) and she got down to a 1:06," noted Walter. "What has changed in her life: she has finished university and has dedicated the last two years to her swimming."