Atkinson vows to win World Championship medal
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner
Any semblance of a notion harboured by Jamaica's most successful swimming sensation, Alia Atkinson - the World silver medallist in the 100 metres breaststroke - of drawing any sort of final line in swimming pools across the globe in the near future has now been irrevocably splashed away.
The just-concluded 2012 swimming season has unquestionably been the most glorious for the super swimmer, who continues to float to new marks by dipping to new records in her surge for glory.
Atkinson readily agrees that its been a dream year.
"It has been good," she chuckled. "It was what I hoped it would be ... I was definitely going to medal in the Olympics or coming out with a World Championship (medal), but I fell short only by a little bit, so it shows that I was making my mark."
But Atkinson is far from satisfied with her exploits so far. By her pronouncements, she is raring for the 2013 season, particularly the World Swimming Championships in Barcelona, Spain.
"I am still going after it, I want that World Championship title behind my name, so if it comes this time or the next I will continue until I get it," vowed Atkinson, who just returned to Jamaica earlier this week for the RJR's Sports Foundation's National Sportsman and Sports Woman of the Year Award, which took place last night.
The gritty swimmer, who competed in three events at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, showed that she was no walkover when she was forced to engage in a swim-off with Canadian Tera Van Beilen in the women's breaststroke semi-final.
Resolve, combined with willpower, shone in the subsequent swim-off as Atkinson unleashed a gutsy performance with typical Jamaican zest into the finals of the 100m breaststroke at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Despite the nerve-wracking moments that culminated in the swim-off, Atkinson advanced with a new personal best clocking of 1:06.79.
The swim-off had become necessary after both swimmers clocked 1:07.48, to tie for fourth place in semi-final one. The Canadian and Jamaican had also tied for the eighth and final spot for the final.
Atkinson was clearly not daunted by the late scare as she vowed, prior to the finals, to secure Jamaica's second Olympic medal outside of track and field. In the end, she rallied superbly, but ended just a shave off the medals.
She, however, won the hearts of many swimming enthusiasts in the international community for her blustery performance in placing fourth in the 100 metres women's breaststroke.
Asked whether having to swim one race more than her competitors in the final impacted her performance, the ever-laughing Atkinson maintained admirable humility.
"Basically, it added another factor in the finals ... I ran four races while others ran three, but I can't really tell whether it would have helped or it wouldn't have helped. But it was something else, it was a challenge that I was up for."
Added Atkinson: "It just depends on where your mindset is, that is most important - to acceopt all challenge whenever it is presented."
Bolstered by a sterling performance in London, Atkinson said she turned her attention to the World Short Course Swimming Championships in Istanbul, Turkey.
"I wanted to make sure that it (Olympic performances) was not a one-time thing," said Atkinson. "I wanted to make sure for myself, as well as the rest of the world looking on Jamaica, I wanted to make sure they know that Alia Atkinson is here, she did not get lucky; I was going after a title, but it was Jamaica's first medals at these championships, so it's still a tremendous feat."
After a year of new marks, the 24-year-old Atkinson hardly appears drained as her effervescence continues to flow.
And what are her plans for 2013?
Atkinson admitted that finances were scarce, but the gritty sportswoman vowed that she would not sink under the sea of challenges.
"The financial aspects are still there, but at the moment I can still swim ... I am looking forward to 2013 Barcelona Worlds (Swimming Championships), so I am taking it one meet at a time. But I think that is what I have to do... I will just have to play it by ear and see where my financial support can get me."
In Barcelona, Atkinson will need all the financial support she can get as she will be saddled with training fees, gym fees, costly protein-related expenses, as well as training trips to get acclimatised, to be able to compete with the Europeans, who are accustomed to the climate as well as technologies that change with rapidity.
"You have to keep with the technology, including rehabilitation facilities, as well as medical expenses in preparation for the unwanted and the unexpected such as injuries ... it's a lot and it's been listed, running into several hundred thousands of dollars," she affirmed.