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Big first for Alia - Swimmer bags historic silver at Short Course Champs

Published:Friday | December 14, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Robert Bailey, Gleaner Writer

Alia Atkinson created history at the FINA World Short Course Swimming Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, yesterday, when she became the first Jamaican swimmer to win a medal at a global tournament.

The 24-year-old Atkinson clocked 29.67 seconds to capture the silver medal in the women's 50m breaststroke. Ruta Meilutye of Lithuania, who won the gold medal in the 100m breaststroke at the London Olympic Games, was again at the top of the podium in a new championship record 29.44. Sara Katsoulis of Australia took home the bronze in 29.94.

Atkinson's silver is also the best finish by a swimmer from the English-speaking Caribbean in a World Championship or Olympic event, eclipsing the bronze medals won by George Bovell of Trinidad and Tobago in the 200 metres individual medley in 2004 in the Athens Olympics, and Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace from The Bahamas, in the 50 metres freestyle at the Dubai World Short Course Championships in 2010.

Marsh elated

Allan Marsh, vice-president of the Swimming Association of Jamaica, said he was very elated with Atkinson's accomplishment.

"I feel fantastic because I think it is an incredible performance from Alia," said Marsh. "It shows that she is really coming into her own. I think her confidence has grown tremendously and her fitness is also excellent at the moment," Marsh said.

Marsh called for more financial support for Atkinson in her effort to become a truly consistent world-class swimmer.

"I think that corporate Jamaica should invest in somebody who can bring them great returns, and I believe that Alia is that person to invest in," Marsh stated. "She embodies all that is positive about Jamaica, she has tremendous work ethic, which is why she is where she is today."

Atkinson is also scheduled to compete in today's final of the 100m individual medley, where she has the fastest time of 58.94 entering the event. Marsh added that Atkinson stands a great chance of taking home the gold medal.

"The world is taking note of her performances, and the way she is swimming, I would not be surprised if she improves on her silver in 100m individual medal final," Marsh said.