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World beater Atkinson quits pool

Sports 03 Jan, 2022 Follow News

Alia Atkinson had a glorious career

Jamaica’s world record holding swim champ Alia Atkinson has announced her retirement from the sport after 20 glorious years.

Atkinson, 33, announced her plans via her Instagram account after finishing her last race at the World Short Course Swimming Championships just before Christmas. She specialised in breaststroke and competed at five consecutive Olympics from 2004-21.

She was born in Roehampton, Jamaica and her family moved to Florida in 2000 where she is based, training at the South Florida Aquatic Club in Pembroke Pines. Atkinson started swimming aged 3 and was immediately brilliant. Comparisons were always made with Janelle Atkinson, who was the first Jamaican swimmer to finish in the top four at an Olympic Games, in 2000.

At her first Games, Athens 2004, Alia placed 32nd overall in the 100 metres breast and was 25th in the 200m breaststroke 4 years later in Beijing. She had an Olympic breakthrough in 2012 when she just missed the 100m breaststroke podium in London, finishing in fourth place.

Atkinson returned to the 100m breaststroke final in 2016 with an eighth place finish in the event at Rio and swam the prelims of the event at Tokyo 2020, finishing 22nd overall.

The Olympic disappointments were tempered by her collecting numerous world long course medals. Among those podium finishes include a 50m breast silver and 100m breast bronze at the 2015 World Championships. She also won 50m breaststroke silver at both the 2014 and 2018 Commonwealth Games, 100m breast bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and a pair of Pan American Games silvers in the 200 individual medley (2011) and 100m breast (2015).

Atkinson has been most dominant, however, in the short course races and retires as world record holder in both the 50m and 100m breaststroke. She set the 50m time in 2016 in 28.64 seconds to break Jessica Hardy’s 28.80secs mark from 2009. Atkinson lowered it again with a 28.56secs in 2018, which still stands.

She shares the 100m breaststroke short course world record with Lithuanian Olympic Champion Ruta Meilutyte who broke it in 2013 in 1 minute 02.36secs. Atkinson matched that time at the 2014 World Swimming Championships and became the first black woman to win an individual world swimming title. Atkinson swam the exact same time at a 2016 World Cup meet.

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