'Little things, big difference' - Atkinson aims at adjustments to go faster
Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer
Alia Atkinson has raised the bar for Jamaican swimmers and herself. Following her record-setting win at the World Short Course Championships in Doha in December 2014, the queen of Jamaican swimming now has a new standard to live up to.
In interviews following the performance that made her the first black woman to win a swimming world title and the first in 40 years to hold a world record, the 26-year-old Atkinson said she has more in the tank. At a reception to welcome her home last Friday, she told those gathered for the ceremonial signing of a new contract as a brand ambassador for GraceKennedy Money Services (GKMS), her best was yet to come.
But how does she top a world record? How does she take that quantum leap forward?
According to the three-time Olympian, improving the little things makes a big difference.
"It goes back to the confidence level. Mentally, I am a lot stronger than I was in previous years, but physically I'm building on what there was before, because it's not just me trying to build my body into shape, it's already in shape," she said, following the signing of her new contract, which sees her being supported financially by GKMS for 2015 and beyond.
"So, mentally and physically, I am better than I was the year before. So with all that, when we have the practices and the different meets, hopefully, I can excel quicker and just generally do better and better."
Atkinson revealed that she will have to put more work into her swimming stroke.
"It would be on the different parts of the stroke that, maybe, I lacked in preliminaries or semi-finals. Things that my coach had seen, trying to touch the different walls so I can get onto that wall no matter what the circumstances are, and maybe some specific gym work," she said.
"For me, though, it's about trying to stay motivated and waking up every day for morning practice."
That motivation comes in the form of other targets that she has her eyes on, targets that could very well see her make the mark in the 100-metre breaststroke her own and possibly setting new marks in other events.
Equalling the world record, she said, "doesn't mean that we don't have other goals, we still have other world records that we want and we still have other goals, not just for myself, but for Jamaica's swimming as well".
CAPTION - Chief executive officer of GraceKennedy Money Services, Michelle Allen (right), affixes her signature to a sponsorship contract for World 100-metre breaststroke champion, Alia Atkinson (seated, centre), while chief executive officer of the GraceKennedy Group, Don Wehby (third left), pretends to sign the document, as the company committed its sponsorship to the athlete. Looking on are (from left) president of the Amateur Swimming Association of Jamaica (ASAJ), Martin Lyn; Courtney Campbell, CEO, GraceKennedy Financial Group; Minister with responsibility for sport, Natalie Neita-Headley; and general secretary of the Jamaica Olympic Association, Christopher Samuda. Occasion was a welcome-home reception for Atkinson at the Norman Manley International Airport on Friday. - Gladstone Taylor/Photographer