JA swimmer Alia sets out to transform the sports’ image

Alia at a clinic in Singapore
Alia at a clinic in Singapore

Many a sports fan, including fellow Jamaicans, have definitely been pleasantly surprised by the confident success of Jamaican record-breaking swimmer, South Florida-based Alia Atkinson. But Atkinson says she hopes swimmers of color will soon be marked by their success, rather than their background.

“Eventually, you think people will stop talking about (the race issue),” the swimmer told reporters during a clinic at the Singapore Sports Institute, which she co-held with Australian swimmer Emily Seebohm, where both worked with young swimming hopefuls. “It helps that there are more people of color coming up in the sport so that’s good to see.”

Atkinson says she hopes her feats will ease the way for budding swimmers of color in the sport where often the environment was far from understanding. Once, she was told by a coach that a lane in the pool was closed, only to see him let another swimmer jump in less than a minute later. She also recalled how an official shook his head disapprovingly at a group of Papua New Guinea swimmers who were unsure how to adjust the starting block’s foot-rest.

But Atkinson’s steady success will hopefully change the tone of the sports. Last December, Atkinson won the 100-meter breaststroke at the 2014 Short Course World Championships in Doha (equaling the record set by Rūta Meilutytė in 2013). She also recently won silver and a bronze at the long-course world championships in Kazan, Russia

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