Alia Atkinson is Your Speedo Performance of the Week – Video

Alia Atkinson

PHOENIX – With 23 world records at the short course world championships and two American records at the US nationals, naturally we had a very tough time trying to pick the best performance from those two meets. But instead of trying to decide if one record was better than another, we went with a swim that made a different kind of history.

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When Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson touched the wall to finish the women’s 100 breast at the world championships, she not only became Jamaica’s first swimming world champion but also the first black woman to earn a world title. Atkinson’s time of 1:02.36 also tied Ruta Meilutyte’s world record.

Atkinson has been at the elite level of the sport for many years, winning the NCAA title in the 200 breast in 2010 and placing fourth in the 100 breast at the 2012 Olympics. The win is a big step forward for her. But having a “1” next to her name means more than the medal or the time. In a sport where the racial makeup at the elite level is 98 to 99 percent white, Atkinson’s breakthrough should give some hope to those who might perceive the color of their skin to be an obstacle in achieving their goals. It’s been six years since Cullen Jones won a gold medal in the 400 free relay in Beijing, becoming the epitome of what black swimmers can do. Simone Manuel and Lia Neal are building on that, and Atkinson’s swim on Saturday advances the objective. I’m sure Enith Brigitha, who became swimming’s trailblazer when she became the first black swimmer to win an Olympic medal in 1976, would be pleased to see the progress, even if this is 38 years after her accomplishment. There’s still a long way to go, but thanks to Alia Atkinson, it appears a big step forward has been taken.

So congratulations, Alia. You’ve won the Speedo Performance of the Week.

1 comment

  1. avatar

    Congratulations Alia! A professional swimmer like you deserves to be honored for your role in the world sport. Keep winning!