Alia Atkinson, 32, Jamaica’s 100-meter breaststroke swimming champion, ended her Olympics career after she did not make it out of the qualifying heats in Tokyo on July 25, 2021. Atkinson came in third in the preliminary round competition with a time of 1:07:70, which was not in the top 16 fastest times that went on to the semifinals.
Atkinson delivered an emotional goodbye message to her fans on social media later in the day, announcing that she was ending her Olympics career after five appearances at the global competition. She noted with surprise how “the years went by so fast” and said that she was “looking at the end of it” before she realized it. Atkinson never won a medal at the Olympics, but when asked if she would have given everything up to get a medal, she said she “wouldn’t trade this journey for anything.”
She added that everything she experienced during her career made her who she is today and taught her “how to get up.” She credited God with teaching her “how to smile through it all.” Atkinson said she was confident that Jamaica will win an Olympic medal in swimming “soon.” While her Olympic career may be over, she believes a medal is still waiting for some Jamaican in the future to claim it.
Atkinson passed on her hopes for that future Jamaican swimmer, saying, “I hope the road was/is less rocky for you; if so, then I have indeed succeeded. We have waited a long time for you, so thank you for staying true and carrying the fly high.”
Despite announcing the end of her Olympic dream, however, Atkinson indicated that she is not ready to retire from competition yet and plans to continue swimming on the global circuit.
Alia Atkinson is the first Afro-Jamaican to win a world swimming title. She was born in St. James Parish in Jamaica in 1988 and participated in five Olympic Games. In 2012, she became just the second Jamaican swimmer to reach the top four at an Olympic competition when she came in fourth in the 100-meter breaststroke. She became the second woman to swim the 100-meter short course breaststroke in 1:02:36 to tie the world record. Atkinson set a new world record in the short course 50-meter breaststroke in 2016, and in 2018, established a new world record in the event for the second time.
In 2018, Atkinson was chosen to be the flag bearer for Jamaica at the Commonwealth Games. She was the only swimmer to represent Jamaica at that staging of the Games. Also, in 2018, she was awarded her country’s fifth-highest honor, the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Commander from Jamaica’s Governor-General. She was inducted into the Texas A&M Athletics Hall of Fame in 2019, and in 2020, was named a champion ambassador to the Special Olympics with her outreach focused on the Caribbean Community.
Photo Alia Atkinson Instagram