Alia Atkinson is a multi-Olympian and breaststroke specialist from Jamaica. Born Dec. 11, 1988 Atkinson competed in her first Olympics at just 16 years old and will compete in her fourth Olympic Games in 2016. Atkinson takes her role in Jamaican swimming very seriously, and even has a mission statement to her swimming career: “To place Jamaica on the world map of swimming; to agitate for the improvement of the infrastructural support for swimming in Jamaica so as to be able to take it to the next level; and to realize my full potential for myself, my parents, and my country.”
One of Atkinson’s first major international championships happened to be the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. At just 15 years old, Atkinson didn’t qualify for a semi-final or championship. Four years later she once again was selected to Jamaica’s Olympic Team in 2008, this time for the 200-meter breaststroke. The breaststroke specialist finished 25th overall in 2008.
In 2012, with two Olympic Games under belt, Atkinson focused on the 100-meter breast. Coming out of the semi-finals, she was tied for eighth with Canadian Tera van Beilen. The two had a swim off in which Atkinson took the last spot in the championship final. In the outside lane, Atkinson had an impressive swim where she just missed the medal podium with a fourth-place finish.
First black woman to win a world title
In Doha at the 2014 Short Course World Championships, Atkinson focused on the sprint breaststroke events — the 50 and 100-meter breast. After narrowly getting out-touched in the 50 breast, Atkinson had nothing to lose going in the 100. Atkinson tied the World Record with a strong back half, and surprised herself in the process. Her World Championship win in the event made her the first black woman in history to win a world title in swimming, and was Jamaica’s first gold swimming medal in the World Championships.
2015 World Championships (Kazan, Russia)
In August 2015 Atkinson competed at the Long Course World Championships in Kazan. The recent short course world champion broke the Jamaican National Record in the semi-finals of the 100 breast, and although she didn’t break her time from semi-finals, Atkinson took out the first 50 meters extremely quick, and finished third behind Efimova and Meilutyte for bronze. Her finish made her the first Jamaican swimmer to win a long course worlds medal. After her history-making performance, Atkinson returned for the 50 breast — an all out sprint. This time she snuck into the championship after finishing sixth in the semi-final. In the final Atkinson dropped nearly a second off of her semi-final and narrowly missed the gold medal when she finished .06 seconds behind Jennie Johansson.
2018 World Cup
Alia competed in the 2nd cluster of the world cup stops, including meets in Eindhoven and Budapest. In Budapest, on the last night of competition, Alia broke the 50 breast (scm) world record, lowering her own mark by .08 from 28.64 to 28.56.
2018 Short Course World Championships
In Hangzhou, Atkinson finally pulled off the sprint breaststroke crown, winning both the 50 (29.05) and 100 breaststroke (1:03.51). She also successfully defended her bronze medal in the 100 IM (58.11).
2018 Central American & Caribbean Swimmer of the Year
Alia Atkinson continued to carry the torch for the Caribbean and Central American women. The most successful female swimmer in the region’s history, Atkinson added 2 more World Championship gold medals and a bronze to her haul in 2018, making her SwimSwam’s 2018 CAC Swimmer of the Year.
2019 Central American & Caribbean Swimmer of the Year
For the 5th time in the 6-year history of the award, Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson was named the 2019 Swammy Awards Central American & Caribbean Female Athlete of the Year.
It was another big year for Atkinson in the pool. After missing the 2017 World Championships, Atkinson was the region’s highest-placing finisher at the 2019 World Championships, taking 4th in the 50 breaststroke in Gwangju. She also finished tied for 11th in the 100 breaststroke and 36th in the 50 fly at Worlds.