It's a silver for Alia
GLASGOW, Scotland:Smile on her face, medal already in her pocket, Jamaica's Alia Atkinson steps in front of the world's media, not just as Jamaica's first Commonwealth Games swimming medallist in 12 years or the island's first Glasgow 2014 medal winner, but as a representative of so much more.
Atkinson followed in the wave of her namesake, Janelle, who won two bronze medals at the 2002 Common-wealth Games in Manchester, England; winning a silver medal in the 50m breaststroke inside the Tollcross International Swimming Centre last night, touching the wall in 30.67 seconds.
Australia's Leiston Picket returned to reclaim the medal she won four years ago in Delhi, taking gold in 30.59 with local girl Corrie Scott winning bronze in 30.75.
For a slightly disappointed Atkinson, the hope is that her performance will go beyond the freshly painted walls of the Tollcross venue and today's front pages and have a positive influence on Jamaica's swimming programme, while encouraging greater minority participation in the sport.
"I'm ecstatic," were her first words after stepping off the medal podium. "Its my first medal but looking into it, I'm a bit disappointed because I was leading in from the prelims and semi-final and the time that I did, either one of those would have won but it is what it is. I just have to bounce back and get ready for tomorrow," said Atkinson, who twice broke the Games record with 30.49 and 30.17 times in the heats and semis.
"For the entire time I've been trying to think about that but for the most part I can't think of anything that went wrong. I think all in all, it was just a slower swim. Everything else was just slower, the dive, I can't pinpoint one thing," she said before noting that it was an even greater disappointment for her when she realised that Jamaica Olympic Association president Mike Fennell was handing out the medals.
hard on herself
"I realised then that he wanted to do the medal thing because he thought I was going to win so that kinda hurt a little bit more actually, but I have two more races to go so let's see. I'm looking forward to those," she smiled.
Perhaps a little too hard on herself, Atkinson, who delivered only the island's fourth swimming medal at the championships, 80 years after W.A. McCatty's 200 yard breaststroke silver in the London games, is changing lives, one stroke at a time, with her latest achievement expected to encourage greater participation in the sport in Jamaica and across the minorities.
"Every time I go in the water, I am trying to build an avatar - someone that they can envision and be proud of inside and outside.
"The African nations have come out in full force here and that's also pretty good to see. If I can contribute even one percent to that (more minority involvement), I would be super happy," Atkinson smiled.
Atkinson, who is the special manager at the International Swimming Hall of Fame, is helping to develop a programme that encourages greater involvement of African, Caribbean and other regions in swimming as well as to promote water safety.
The 25-year-old Jamaican will return to the pool today at 10:56 a.m. (4:56 a.m. Ja time) for the 200m breaststroke heat, but she didn't end her interview without a message to her supporters.
"This loss has awakened a lion inside me, so I'm looking forward to the other events!"