October 20, 2011
WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
Two-time Olympian Alia Atkinson completed her third Pan American Games with her competitive fires still burning.
After winning a silver medal, a first for Jamaica since 1999, breaking five national records, and just missing two other medals, the 22-year-old will return to South Florida with a newfound confidence and fire in her belly.
Atkinson agreed that she cleared another hurdle in her quest to legitimately challenge for medals in championship finals.
And while it was a rollercoaster of emotions for her throughout the long competition, Atkinson realizes she is learning how to race and fight for every hundredth of a second.
In her final appearance on Thursday night at the Scotiabank Aquatics Center in Guadalajara, Mexico, Atkinson finished fourth in the 200-meter breaststroke after battling between first and second place for the first 150 meters. She finished in 2:30.96, 45/100ths away from a bronze medal. Her national record is 2:29.00 in the event.
“I was trying but my body shut down, it was saying, no more, no more,” Atkinson said by phone from Mexico.
“Yes and no I do have mixed emotions. The meet was good and bad for me. I have confidence in the 200 IM (which she won a silver in and earned No. 60 world ranking) and in the other two races I was touched out a little bit. It’s true I have more confidence. I know I can get out faster and finish better. This will motivate me and I am looking ahead to the Olympics, that’s my goal.
“I look at this meet among my best but I still think the short course meet in Dubai was the better one.”
Swimming in Lane 6, Atkinson was second after the first 50 meters (33.48), first at the 100 (38.44, 1:11.92), second after the third 50 (38.75/1:50.67) and came home in 40.29, the second slowest final split in the field.
Atkinson won her heat in morning prelims in 2:32.33.
“Tonight’s swim will inspire her to get the job done between now and the Olympics,” said SOFLO and Jamaica coach Chris Anderson.
“She has all the tools to be an Olympic finalist. Now she just needs to develop and refine these skills in the next nine months.”
Atkinson joins Janelle Atkinson (no relation) as the only other Jamaican swimmer to medal in the history of the Pan American Games.
Canadian Ashley McGregor won in 2:28.04. Americans Haley Jo Spencer and Michelle McKeehan finished 2-3 in 2:29.30 and 2:30.51.
St. Thomas alum Daniela Victoria of Venezuela and Davie Nadadores won the “B” final and was ninth overall in 2:38.52. In third place after 150 meters, Victoria turned it on in the final 50 meters.
On Friday, SOFLO’s Arlene Semeco, two-time Olympian for Venezuela, will go for her second medal in the 50-meter freestyle, her specialty event. She is defending champion and is coming off a bronze medal swim in the 100-meter freestyle on Wednesday.
In other championship finals:
Brazilian Olympic and world champion Cesar Cielo won the 50-yard freestyle in a Pan American Games record of 21.58. Cielo, the world record holder in 20.91 broke his own Pan American Games record of 21.84 he set in 2007. Teammate Bruno Fratus took the silver in 22.05 and Cuba’s Hanser Garcia, despite a poor start, won the bronze in 22.15.
“I had a target to swim as close as I could or better than I did in the world championships,” said Cielo, a two-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist in the event. “I wasn’t thinking about the record. I just wanted to improve my time and try to do the best I could.”
In his first meet back after serving a year-long suspension for three missed whereabout filings repealed by the CAS, Venezuela’s Albert Subirats won the 100-meter butterfly in 52.37. Americans Eugene Godsoe and Christopher Brady finished 2-3 in 52.67 and 52.95.
American Elizabeth Pelton saved the day for the U.S. team that had been shut out of gold until she won the 200-meter backstroke in a Pan American Games record of 2:08.99. American Bonnie Brandon took the silver.
“Winning gold was definitely the goal for tonight,” said the Naples swimmer who won her third gold medal of the meet.
Before Thursday night, the U.S. women had won all but one of the gold medals.
Florida State’s McKayla Lightbourn of the Bahamas, scratched from the 200-meter breaststroke “B” final to focus on the 200-meter backstroke. She won the “B” final in 2:19.25.
Team USA has 39 medals including 16 golds, 17 silvers and six bronze. Brazil has 20 medals including eight gold, seven silver and five bronze. Venezuela moved into third with one gold, one silver and six bronzes.
Mary Killman of McKinney, Tex. and Maria Koroleva of Concord, Calif. won the silver medal for the U.S. in the duet competition Thursday at the XVI Pan American Games. Killman and Koroleva scored 179.463 points behind Canada’s Marie-Pier Boudreau and Elise Marcotte who finished with 188.988 points. Brazil’s Nayara Figueira and Lara Teixeira won the bronze.
Olympic gold medalist Natalie Coughlin went through a 4.2 earthquake on Thursday afternoon and another one Thursday evening. “Just a 4.2 quake around Berkeley area,” she tweeted. “Got home and nothing damaged. Been through several quakes but never in a public place. Quite different. I keep telling myself that all these little quakes are simply releasing built up pressure, keeping the big ones away.”…The USA diving team is training in Houston before leaving for the Pan American Games.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com