André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
Alia Atkinson finishes fourth in Olympic 100m breaststroke
Fourth place - the worst position to finish in at an Olympic Games. But for Jamaican swimmer Alia Atkinson there is much to smile about and even more to be proud of.
The 23-year-old joined Sydney 2000 400m freestyle finalist Janelle Atkinson as the best-placed Jamaican swimmer at an Olympic Games, after she finished fourth in the 100m breaststroke final with a time of 1:06.93 seconds, behind gold medallist, 15-year-old Ruta Meilutyte (Lithuania), 1:05.47; Rebecca Soni (USA), 1:05.55 and Satomi Suzuki (Japan), 1:06.46.
Atkinson, who will now turn her attention to tomorrow's 200m breaststroke heats inside the Aquatic Centre at 10:43 a.m. (4:43 a.m. Jamaica time), though disappointed not to have finished among the medal positions, is happy with her efforts and believes with the right support she could have done even better.
"I really wanted to get that medal to show that Jamaica's swimming is up there," said Atkinson, who also represented the country at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games. "I wanted to get ahead of Janelle (Atkinson) and where she reached, but I tied with her and, hopefully, this will open up the world for Jamaica's swimming.
"Hopefully, I will be able to get some funding or sponsorship to continue until 2016. That is definitely a possibility if I can get the financial support," Atkinson said.
The Jamaican broke the national record twice - first in the heats with 1:07.39 and again during a swim-off after the semi-final with 1:06.79.
"A little disappointed that I didn't get third but even my best - the time that I did in the swim-off - wouldn't have got me third either, so my best time wouldn't have gotten third, so I can't be that disappointed with myself," Atkinson told The Gleaner shortly after the race.
Atkinson, who came out of the pool and hugged American Breeja Larson, who currently attends her alma mater Texas A&M University, shared the emotions experienced when she looked up at the scoreboard after touching the wall.
"The block lights up with who finishes one, two and three, so I looked at the block and prayed that it had a red light, but it didn't," Atkinson sighed.
Always good off the start, Atkinson rushed to a positive position after 25m but was outpowered to the wall by the pair of Meilutyte and Soni. She did, however, show improved endurance in the last 25m, passing and holding off 2008 Beijing gold medallist Leisel Jones.
"I am happy with the race because I didn't die at the end. I got strong in the last 25m and held off the two girls that were beside me," Atkinson assessed.
In the other event involving a Jamaican, equestrienne Samantha Albert posted 54 in her eventing cross-country test but remains doubtful for a top 25 finish. Albert will feature in the eventing show-jumping qualifier, which starts at 10:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m. Jamaica time).