Alia’s Olympic dream medal remains elusive
One of the most impactful swimmers of the last few years looks set to walk away from the sport, as barrier-breaking Jamaican Alia Atkinson was left to contemplate retirement after missing out on a spot in the semi-finals of the women’s 100m breaststroke at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games yesterday.
A record-breaker in the pool and a narrative shifter outside of it, Atkinson became a darling of the sport and an ambassador across the globe after becoming the first black woman to win a world title in 2014.
She was looking to win her first medal at the Olympic Games, after consistent medal mining at the international level, which saw her win 26 medals, while representing the country. However, with the 32-year-old already in the departure lounge and the final pages being turned in her career, Atkinson told The Gleaner that it was likely she would retire at the end of the current season.
“Next year? I’m doubtful. If you see me (competing) next year, ask me what happened, because that is not the plan right now,” Atkinson stated. “I am going to finish off the rest of the year. I have World Cup and ISL coming up, so we will see there and then; [by] December, we look at where I am in life.”
Atkinson, who was competing in her fifth straight Olympic Games, became the first black woman to win a world title, when she took gold in the 100m breaststroke at the 2014 World Short Course Championships, and further carved her name in history by breaking the world record in the 50m short course breaststroke in 2016 and 2018, and tying the 100m short course breaststroke world record in 2014.
“Because I am here, I want to perform at my best, and considering I am two seconds off my best, it’s not where I would like to finish my last Olympics. But I have to look at the long run and the perseverance through it, but I must admit that I am glad that I fought through for 20-something years. This is not the result of it, but it is what it is,” said Atkinson.
The Jamaican got off to a good start, leading for much of the first 50m before losing steam towards the end to touch the wall at 1:07:70 behind winner Kortyna Teteterovkova, 1:06.82, and second-place finisher Anna Elendt, 1:06.96.
“It wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be, I wasn’t as sharp, as the races normally feels, it just felt lackadaisical,” Atkinson further shared. “I went out a bit too slow; usually I am 30 or 31 (seconds), so it was too slow, and on the way back it should have been more of a charge, but that push was not there at the end.
“For the last two years we have just been working on executing a good race, putting all the technical stuff together, and for some reason it just couldn’t come together, so we are hoping that with more rest and with a bigger stage, I will get back to that style, but it just wasn’t there,” she added.
Atkinson says she intends to continue her charity efforts across the globe and will be focusing on building out her line of children’s books, among other ventures.