Usain Bolt is the world’s fastest man and the pride of Jamaica, and because of athletes like Bolt, the island nation has become synonymous with track and field. But one South Florida athlete is trying to change that.
Alia Atkinson, who was born in Jamaica and lives in Pembroke Pines, is the country’s most accomplished swimmer. Actually, she’s their only accomplished swimmer.
“The world doesn’t know Jamaica for its swimming. So to actually come out and say, yes, I’m a swimmer … everybody's taken aback,” Atkinson said.
“I was uncoordinated on land, and I really don’t like to run, so it kinda limited my choices,” she joked.
The 2012 London Olympic Summer Games will be Atkinson’s third trip to the Olympics. The Flanagan High School graduate started as a 15-year-old in Athens. Four years later in Beijing, she finished 25th in the breaststroke.
Since then, Atkinson won a national championship at Texas A&M and a silver medal in the 2011 Pan Am Games.
Now she’s ranked sixth in the world – and setting her sights on something bigger.
“I would love, as I'm sure anybody else would, to get a medal at the Olympics. That is the ultimate goal,” Atkinson said.
A medal would be the crown on a career that continues to make history. Atkinson currently holds eight Jamaican national records and inspires possibilities for a country that generally sticks to dry land.
“When I go back home and I see the little kids and they all know me, and they all want to swim like Alia,” she said, “it’s a real privilege to swim for them.”