André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
World Short Course Swimming Championships silver medallist, Alia Atkinson, who barely missed an Olympic medal when she placed fourth at the London Games this past summer, has been flying the flag for Jamaican swimming over the past few years.
However, Amateur Swimming Association of Jamaica (ASAJ) president, Martin Lyn, says that the country has more to offer.
Atkinson came within a couple strokes of a bronze medal in the 100m breaststroke at the recent Olympic Games in London and closed a splendid year for herself and Jamaican swimming with two second-place finishes at the recent short course World Champs in Istanbul.
However, she was not the only Jamaican in Istanbul as 16-year-old Timothy Wynter, one of several young and exciting Jamaican swimmers, had also achieved the qualifying mark for the championship.
Wynter, who is more versed over longer distances, swam a personal best 55.55 seconds in the 100m backstroke in Istanbul and also competed in the 100m butterfly, 50m backstroke and 50m butterfly events.
"This is a silver medal at the highest level. I know that the Olympics is a big hype, but the World Championships is bigger in swimming for the swimming fraternity and the fact that Alia has attained two silver medals at this level is an encouraging sign, even if she still has a long way to go," Lyn told The Gleaner.
"Alia did extremely well at the World Championships, but we should remember that we also sent another swimmer in young Timothy, who, at 16, has made the times that qualify him to swim at this level," Lyn added.
"We encourage the sponsors to come on board because Alia is just one of many athletes that we have capable of attaining national and world recognition in swimming," Lyn continued. "There are two or three other swimmers ahead of Timothy in the line, but for one reason or the other, they could not make this championships in Istanbul, so swimming is definitely on the up and up for Jamaica, not only in the short term, but in the long-term future."
What is being done to keep these youngsters exposed and interested in the sport?
Lyn noted that there are several programmes in place to ensure the development of the island's most promising talent, but also underscored that there are several other opportunities for top swimmers, particularly scholarship openings at overseas institutions.
"We have the programmes in place to ensure that, for the years to come, swimming will be well represented at the highest level," Lyn sought to assure. "The swimming fraternity is extremely vibrant in terms of looking for sponsorship locally and otherwise, it's slow in coming, but it's coming.
"Breanna Roman and Timothy Wynter have gone away on scholarships and others recently as well, and that's an opportunity as well that we are just catching up with. The potential for our swimmers to get scholarships at overseas institutions and even high schools in the United States (US) is there," Lyn noted.
"They leave here with what we give them and get further exposed in the US while still representing Jamaica," Lyn noted.