December 15, 2011
WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
South Florida Aquatic Club’s Alia Atkinson is among six finalists for the 2011 National Sportswoman of the Year award in Jamaica.
Atkinson, 22, was runner-up for the honor last year.
Other women finalists are boxer Alicia Ashley, WBC junior featherweight world champion; track stars Kaliese Spencer, the 400-meter hurdle Diamond league champion, and Veronica Campbell-Brown; world track silver medalist Melaine Walker; and cricket player Stefanie Taylor, the ICC Women’s Cricket Player of the Year.
Atkinson is coming off one of her best seasons in swimming that includes a silver medal at the XVI Pan American Games in Mexico, ending a 12-year drought for Jamaica in major international swimming medals.
During the Pan Am Games, the two-time Olympian won a silver medal in the 200-meter individual medley in 2:14.75, her fifth national record time in four days.
It was the SOFLO swimmer’s first major international medal at a major meet and Jamaica’s first medal in swimming since 1999.
In June, Atkinson won her first gold medal at a European meet at the Sette Colli International Open in the 50-meter breaststroke in a career-best 31.06, moving her to seventh place in the world rankings, her highest career ranking.
Among the men Sportsman finalists are track superstar Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake, World Championships gold medalist.
The winner will be announced during a gala awards ceremony on Jan. 20 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel.
USA Heavy Favorite For Duel in the Pool
Ryan Lochte, Brendan Hansen, Natalie Coughlin, Rebecca Soni, Amanda Beard, Dana Vollmer and Missy Franklin will lead the heavily-favored U.S. team when it meets the Europe All-Stars in the Mutual of Omaha Duel in the Pool that begins on Friday.
The meet will be held at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center just two weeks after the nationals were held at the same venue in Atlanta.
Olympic 14-time gold medalist Michael Phelps is not competing, choosing instead to train and compete in a local meet last weekend.
Europe is led by former world championships medalists Gemma Spofforth and Fran Halsall of Great Britain. They are among six British swimmers.
Also on the European team are Denmark’s Lotte Friis, world silver medalist in the 800-meter freestyle; Aliaksandra Herasimenia, Jeanette Ottesen and former world 400-meter individual medley champion Katinka Hosszu.
Brits Robbie Renwick, Adam Brown and Marco Loughran will join Hungarians Laszlo Cseh, a four-time Olympic medalist, Daniel Gyurta and Gergo Kis and Markus Rogan of Austria.
The European All-Star team is coached by British Swimming head coach Dennis Pursley, a former U.S. national team coach.
“This is going to be an exciting encounter for everyone involved whether you are a swimmer, a coach or one of the thousands of spectators,” Pursley said. “We’ve got a great opportunity to see many of the sport’s biggest and best going head-to-head. The event is another outstanding opportunity for the athletes of all countries to hone their race skills in preparation for their respective Olympic trials and Games themselves.
“We have a very strong European team this year and we intend to give the Yanks a run for their money.”
The U.S. hasn’t lost this every-other-year meet since it started in 2003 as a way to build interest in swimming during the non-Olympic years.
“It’s hard for me to believe we can lose the way this team feeds off each other,” Hansen said. “When we start rolling at a meet like this, it’s a slippery slope. The meet is over a lot sooner than you think, then we’re just racing each other.”
Hansen recently signed with Wright Entertainment and Sports Management that features Fort Lauderdale-based rep Shawn Zenga. Hansen was formerly with Evan Morganstein.
The Americans beat Australia at the first three duels, and last year routed the European team, 185-78 two years ago.
“Everybody wants to beat the Americans,” Rogan said.
Swimmers on both teams are in various stages of preparation, some are rested and shaved and others are in the midst of heavy training.
The entire competition will be broadcast live. The Friday session will be on Universal Sports at 7 p.m. and Saturday’s session on NBC at 2 p.m. and re-broadcast again on Universal Sports.
Cielo Stars At Brazilian Senior Open
Cesar Cielo, in the midst of heavy training, won the 100-meter freestyle in 48.42 on the opening day of the Brazilian Senior Open and Senior Championships in Rio de Janeiro, the official Olympic qualifying meet for the Brazilians.
Henrique Barbosa broke his own meet record in the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:09.82. Thiago Pereira was second in 2:00.19.
Henrique Rodrigues won the 200-meter individual medley in 1:59.79, an Olympic qualifying cut time.
Daniel Orzechowski won the 50-meter backstroke in 24.88 after going 24.79 in prelims.
Lucas Kanieski won the 1500-meter freestyle in 15:28.56.
Fabiola Molina won the 50-meter backstroke in 28.25, just missing the meet record.
Larissa Oliveira won the 100-meter freestyle in 55.87.
Michele Schmidt won the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:37.20 after going 2:36.19 in prelims.
Joanna Maranhao won the 200-meter individual medley in 2:14.96.
The senior races are being held at night while the open races for Olympic hopefuls are being held in the mornings.
Florida Gulf Coast women’s team was ranked ninth in the second CSCAA/College Swimming.com Mid-Major Division I Swimming Poll. FGCU (5-1) is the only team in the Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association ranked in the Top 25. San Jose State is ranked No. 1. FGCU will host is first home meet of the season on Jan. 7 against ACC member Georgia Tech, North Dakota and CCSA team Liberty at the FGCU Aquatics Center at 11 a.m…
Aussie great and five-time Olympic champion Ian Thorpe, 29, in the midst of a comeback, will swim his first long course meet since coming out of retirement on Friday at the Italian Long Course Open Winter Championships in Riccione. Thorpe, who has been training in Switzerland, will swim the 100- and 200-meter freestyles. Also in the meet is Trinidad and Tobago’s George Bovell, only his second meet back since a horrific car accident in August…
Aussie triple Olympic gold medalist Stephanie Rice underwent arthroscopic surgery on her right shoulder Tuesday to repair a torn tendon and is expected to be back in the pool next week to prepare for the Australian Olympic trials on March 15-22.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org