Four-year gov't support for Atkinson
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
OLYMPIAN ALIA Atkinson is to benefit from government support over the next four years.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, while not naming the swimmer, said the assistance is a fulfilment of a promise made during the Olympic Games.
The money is being taken from the PetroCaribe Development Fund.
During the time of the London Games, Prime Minister Simpson Miller promised support for Atkinson's 2016 Olympic campaign.
The swimmer had pleaded for help, following a fourth place and national record-shattering performance in the 100m breaststroke at the London Olympics.
Following that, the prime minister responded saying: "I am going to speak to the ministers of finance and education and the Sports Development Foundation, and I appeal to the private sector. We have to partner to allow her (Atkinson) to continue her training programme.
"I want to say to her, help is on the way," Simpson Miller had said.
Yesterday, Simpson Miller, who was speaking at a Jamaica 50 PetroCaribe scholarship award ceremony at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, was guarded as she announced the assistance being provided by the Government.
She said it is important to protect the identity of persons being given assistance.
"I am never the one to call names when assistance will be given because I believe that our sportsmen and women, if we have to give assistance, they should be protected," Simpson Miller added.
At the same time, Simpson Miller made it know that she has not forgotten her promise.
"I made a statement that the Government would be looking at a particular athlete that has a problem and that we would move to assist that athlete. Well, I am very pleased and I want to commend the chairman and members of the PetroCaribe board because they are going to be looking at this particular athlete for support for a period of four years, so that athlete would be able to continue training and to excel in her field," Simpson Miller said.
In the meantime, Dr Wesley Hughes, financial secretary and chairman of the PetroCaribe board, when asked how much assistance is to be given to Atkinson, said a decision in that regard has not been made.
"We haven't decided yet. We have just got a training schedule for over an extended period and there is a commitment to assist her but we haven't decided how much, it is something we are working on," Dr Hughes told The Gleaner.
In August, Martin Lyn, president of the Amateur Swimming Association of Jamaica, said Atkinson needs about US$4,500, or approximately J$400,000 per month to prepare her for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.