Last night Jamaica was on pause to see Alia Atkinson medal and possibly win Gold in the 100m Breaststroke Final in RIO, but we cannot even say she fell short, she finished dead last, 8th in 1:08.10.
Janelle Atkinson, a former Jamaican Swimmer and Olympian who is not related to her, was commentating on ESPN Carribean and leading up to the race, took us through how she would be thinking and joked that she just wouldn’t want to come last. I do not think she thought that would even be close to the outcome of Alia’s race last night but sadly it was. She probably felt like swallowing her words after the race.
Leading up to the race, one of the other commentators, Alexis Nunes said that no matter the outcome, she has still achieved a lot and should be proud. She is the first Caribbean swimmer to reach 2 Olympic Finals. It was as if she was trying to prepare Jamaica for a possible failure. Because to be fair, these things can happen. However, I sat on my couch remaining positive, because from what I knew, with the chance Alia had and the previous disappointment before of being so close, she should have destroyed that field.
My previous blog outlined her chances as well as her competitors’. To recap a bit, Alia came 4th in the London 2012 Olympics with a time of 1:06.93.
Rūta Meilutytė of Lithuania, currently the World Record holder of 1:02.36, was the only one that returned to the Finals in Rio amongst the other medallists from London. Alia is also capable of swimming as fast as Rūta, which I don’t believe the others have proven just yet. Alia won the gold at the World Championships in DOHA in 2014, beating Rūta who got the silver. Alia not only won the gold but equalled Rūta’s World record time of 1:02.36, which is her Personal best. She just needed to swim to her full potential or even close to it and the Gold would have been hers. Easier said than done though. What happened?!
Their was obvious rivalry between Russia and the USA. That would fire me up even more. I would be thinking, what about Jamaica?! It is time they realise we are going to be put on the map in swimming tonight. I’m 27. I may not EVER have this chance again. There are new flying fish in this pool every 4 years. Let’s do this. Now stop thinking because I need to hear that buzzer that is going to sound like a bullet!
What was goin on in Alia’s head before the race? It should have been that. I wish it was that. I wanted that Gold for her. Jamaica wanted that Gold for her. She usually has a great start. My world was not on pause for her just for the race. The anticipation was so huge I was sitting on my couch biting my nails for about 45 minutes before her race, putting aside things I had to do because I did not want the time to cut too close to the start of her race. So yes, this may all seem harsh while the majority of Jamaicans and our own media houses are saying, ‘Well done Alia!’ ‘You were brave!’ ‘You did us proud’. Yes she made us proud by reaching the Final for the second time, but she did not execute to her full potential or even close to. That is what Champions do at the Olympics. She was surely brave to continue swimming after possibly diving into the pool 2s after everyone else. Because where would she go from there? Her entire game plan would have to change and she already has a weak finish. At one point I am sure everyone thought she was making a comeback in the race, but it was too much for her. Her lack of alertness at the start unless she can tell us otherwise and her inability to recover in a small amount of time, hurt her. Poorly done Alia. She knows it too. It was said on the radio that she walked right past the Jamaican reporters after the race. I wouldn’t want to talk to anyone right after that huge disappointment either.
For those who may not know the outcome of the rest of the race, Lilly King of the USA took 1st with an Olympic record of 1:04.93 beating the Russian, Yulia Efinova (1:05.69), who was caught up in the doping scandal and booed when she walked out and was announced for the race. Bronze went to another American, Katie Meili (1:05.69). The defending Olympic Champ Rūta Meilutytė was a surprising 7th.
I am not an Olympian or even close to, but I am athletic and competitive. I seize the opportunity or opportunities to win at all costs. So let us not sugar-coat the result and say, ‘Well done Alia’, perhaps we should say, ‘Try again Alia’ or ‘Rise above Alia’. I know the instant reaction of most Jamaicans was, ‘Jah know, she come last’. It would have been worse if she was on the track. So let us not compromise or settle just because it is Swimming. We should have been much more upset. That is exactly why she needed to do better, to raise our expectations for the future of Swimming and expect nothing less than the best.
I am not saying I am not proud of Alia. I am very proud of her accomplishments, but she failed to seize the opportunity she had for an Olympic medal. I am so sorry she did not get what she worked so hard for. 4 years is a lot of time to work on a remedy to remove the salt out of the wound of just missing a Bronze medal at the Olympics. Last night I wished I could just hug her. I was sad and extremely distraught. So I cannot imagine how she felt. I feel like that song by Alaine, ‘Born again’ that plays on our local channel in the ad for Olympics, featuring Alia, was meant for her. ‘It’s my Time, It’s my Place, It’s my Destiny. No one can take away what was meant for me…’ That ad will be a sad one now, like a dagger everytime it is played…until Jamaica hits the track!
So the question is, if she does not give up, will she get an opportunity like this ever again? It would be hard, but never say never. Grey haired, David Plummer of the USA won Bronze in the 100m Backstroke at 30 years old and he will be 31 in October. He never gave up and put up the fight against the youngsters with his experience and determination. At his age in swimming, a Bronze probably felt as good as Gold.
Rise above Alia. Rise above.