Mon | Dec 5, 2016

Atkinson's performance isn't the greatest

Published:Tuesday | January 13, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The historic record-equalling swim in the 100-metre breaststroke event at the World Short Course Swimming Championships by Jamaica's darling of the pool, Alia Atkinson, will, no doubt, go down as one of the brightest moments in the rich and diverse history of Jamaican sports.

I vehemently disagree, however, with the spurious notion that Atkinson's big moment in Doha, Qatar, represents the greatest sporting performance of all time by a Jamaican woman.

That view has been put forward in some quarters based on the sensitive, emotional dynamic of Atkinson being hailed globally as the first black woman to win a World swimming title.

This race- and colour-related intricacy, I think, has totally discombobulated the minds of some people and has ultimately affected their ability to fairly contextualise this particular performance.

Putting things into perspective

My simple retort continues to be that, with all due respect, Atkinson's performance, as brilliant and as spectacular as it was, cannot be the greatest ever sporting performance by a Jamaican woman. Our standards in international sports competitions are simply too high.

It is also important to put into some kind of perspective what the Short Course Swimming Championships represents in the wider scheme of things. The short course events in swimming are the equivalent of the World Indoors in track and field. The pool for this event is a 25-metre pool, compared to what obtains at the top events such as the Olympics and the World Championships, where the pool is 50-metres long.

The 100 metres breaststroke, therefore, would require swimming four lengths of the short course pool, which would be advantageous to a swimmer like Atkinson, who is explosive off the turn, compared to a swimmer who gathers momentum down the 50-metre straight.

The short course 100-metre breaststroke, in that sense, was tailor-made for Alia Atkinson.

Implicit in the idea that this record-equalling swim is the top sports performance by a Jamaican woman, is that success at the Short Course Swimming Championships is at least equal to success at the Olympic Games. That is a point of fundamental departure, for me.

Olympic Gold medallists

I could close my eyes and pick any one of Jamaica's six individual Olympic gold-medal performances by women as bigger performances than Atkinson's swimming triumph.

Such is the magnitude of the Olympic Games relative to all other international competitions.

Take your pick from Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price's explosive run in that heart-warming Jamaican one-two-three finish in the 100 metres final at the Beijing Olympics; the successful defence of her title in London in 2012; Deon Hemmings' winning the 400m hurdles at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 to become the first individual female Olympic gold medallist, not just from Jamaica, but from the entire English-speaking Caribbean; Veronica Campbell-Brown winning our first individual sprint Olympic gold medal by a woman in Athens in 2004, and then returning to successfully defend her crown in Beijing in 2008. Melaine Walker's Olympic 400m hurdles record run, also in Beijing, must be another candidate for the greatest individual sports performance by a Jamaican woman.

These performances took place on the biggest stage in sport, the incomparable Olympic Games. In that context, my decisive nod for the greatest-ever sports performance of all time by a Jamaican woman must go to Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price's historic 100-metre win in Beijing, when, for the first time in our history, she turned in the ultimate performance, in the ultimate event, on the ultimate stage.

Alia Atkinson's super record-equalling performance sparkled brilliantly.

However, it will, unfortunately, fade away in the shadows of Jamaica's Olympic brilliance.

Follow the Trace - Oral Tracey