By Gregory Bryce
Alia Atkinson is a name that all Jamaicans will know very well. The four-time Olympian has been the golden girl for Jamaica’s aquatics for years and is a major pioneer in her field. Atkinson is undoubtedly one of the greatest swimmers that Jamaica has ever produced, and the 32-year-old swimmer proved just why she is Jamaica’s ‘Queen of the Pool’ at the Florida Gold Coast Senior Swimming Championship.
Atkinson made 13 wins out of 14 starts and she took home three gold medals at the championship in Florida. Atkinson dominated as she won the 100m breaststroke, 100m butterfly, and 100m freestyle races to sweep all of her individual races of the day. Representing South Florida Aquatics team, Atkinson was a class above the rest as she cruised to victory at ease, going as far as to even improve on her personal bests and setting new National records.
Atkinson holds 19 of Jamaica’s swimming national records, and at the Gold Coast Senior Swimming Championship, she further improved her personal best in the 100m freestyle even when she finished in 48.81 seconds – becoming the first Jamaican woman to dip below the 49-second mark in the event. She also won this race by more than two seconds ahead of second place. She won the 100m breaststroke in 58.97 seconds – with second place finishing that race more than three seconds behind the blazing Atkinson. She went on to win the 100m butterfly in 52.01 seconds. This time saw her beating the pool record that she herself had set when she had finished in 58.45 seconds.
She proved she was in terrific form for 2021 when she then went on to win five gold medals at the Piranha’s Senior Invitational. Here, Atkinson – who had already qualified for her fifth Olympic appearance – won the 200m medley relay (while representing South Florida Aquatics), the 100m breast stroke, the 100m butterfly, the 50m breaststroke, and the 50m butterfly.
At the Piranha’s Meet, she came close to breaking her own National Record in the 100m butterfly when she finished just shy of the mark 59.94 seconds when she finished in 1:00:87 seconds (which also is her fourth-fastest time across that distance).
Atkinson is undoubtedly Jamaica’s Queen of the Pool and only seems to be improving with age. Under her belt, she is a highly decorated swimmer, having a total of 140 FINA and Olympic medals. To break that down, she has won two World Championship medals, two Pan American Games medals, three Commonwealth Games medals, four Champion Swim Series medals, ten World Swimming Championship (25m) medals and 124 Swimming World Cup medals for a combined total of 140. Of those, she has 76 gold medals, 32 silver medals, and 35 bronze medals which she has accumulated over her almost two-decades-long career.
Atkinson first came onto the scene at just 15 years old when she was a member of the Jamaica team at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. In 2014, she became the first Jamaican as well as the first black woman to win a title at the World Championship when she won the 100m breaststroke in a world record time of 1:02:36 seconds. Four years later at the 2018 World Cup, she went on to break the 50m breaststroke world record in a time of 28.56 seconds.
Atkinson has paved the way for her fellow Jamaicans to follow, and is undoubtedly a Jamaican legend.
Gregory Bryce is a freelance sports journalist.
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