WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
October 5, 2010
Alia Atkinson, competing in her first championship final at the 19th Commonwealth Games, finished eighth on the second day of swimming competition in Delhi, India.
The two-time Olympian representing Jamaica finished the 50-meter breaststroke in 32.48 seconds, 1.64 seconds behind a world-class field on Tuesday at the Dr. S.P.M. Aquatics Complex in Talkatora Gardens.
On Monday, the opening day, Atkinson, 21, broke her own national record twice, in the opening heat in 32.24 and bettered it in the semifinals in 32.13 to advance.
Atkinson was also 12th in the 200-meter individual medley in 2:24.39.
In the 50 breaststroke final, Leiston Pickett of Australia, blew the field away off the blocks, took the gold in an upset in 30.84. The 18-year-old and newest Aussie swim star, is ranked third in the world behind American Jessica Hardy (30.03) and Russian Yulia Efimova (30.29) in 30.57.
“It’s certainly been an experience coming to Delhi and it’s great to get a gold medal,” Pickett said. “All the girls are swimming so fast so I knew I had to go for it from the start. To come out with gold is one of my dreams come true.”
Jones, the Olympic 100-meter champion, took silver in 31.10 and Kate Haywood of England took bronze in 31.17 to prevent an Aussie sweep.
On Wednesday, Atkinson will attempt to make another final in the 200-meter breaststroke. She competes in Lane 6 of Heat 3 against two of the world’s best, Hannah Miley of Scotland and Leisel Jones of Australia.
Atkinson is attempting to become the first Jamaican to medal at a Commonwealth Games since Janelle Atkinson (no relation) took bronze medals in the 400- and 800-meter freestyles.
In other action, the Aussies and Brits took turns winning medals.
Fran Halsall of England, a world silver medalist in the 100 freestyle, shocked Aussies Marieke Guehrer and Emily Seebohm to win the 50-meter butterfly in a British national record time of 26.24.
Guehrer, the world champion and fastest qualifier, was touched out at the wall on the last stroke and finished in 26.27. Seebohm’s time was 26.29.
“It’s fantastic, I really didn’t expect to win that one,” Halsall said. “I just wanted to go out there and get a good time and see what happens. I like being the underdog. There was a lot more pressure on some of the other girls. It was really nice to see the England flag at the top and two Aussies underneath.”
England’s world champion Liam Tancock won the men’s 50-meter backstroke in a meet record of 24.62 ahead of Aussies Hayden Stoeckel (25.08) and Ashley Delaney, (25.21) the fastest qualifier for the final.
“It’s all about getting in there and racing,” Tancock said. “I felt good but not amazing. I wasn’t really aware how far in front I was.
In the Paralympic 50-meter freestyle event, South Africa’s Natalie Du Toit just missed her world record of 29.04 and won the gold medal in 29.17.
In the final gold medal event of the night, Scotland’s Robert Renwick won the 200-meter freestyle in 1:47.88, finishing ahead of Aussies Kenrick Monk (1:47.90) and Thomas Fraser-Holmes (1:48.22).
“This is a proud moment for me and for Scotland,” Renwick said. “I’m going to enjoy the moment.”
Glasgow, Scotland will host the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
In other news:
Australia’s top distance swimmer Robert Hurley is suffering from a fatigue-related condition and may withdraw. In his first event, he was 14th in the 400-meter freestyle on Monday. Two other teammates, Andrew Lauterstein and Patrick Murphy seem to have similar symptoms. Some doctors have suggested it is over-training and under-recovery. Hurley must first get permission from the Australian Commonwealth Games Association to leave the Games.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com