By Sharon Robb
July 25, 2014—The gold medal slipped away from Alia Atkinson in the final 15 meters at Tollcross Swimming Centre Friday at the 20th Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.
The three-time Jamaican Olympian and South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer was sitting pretty to win her first gold medal in her third Commonwealth Games appearance after breaking meet and national records and moving up to third in the world rankings in the 50-meter breaststroke after the semifinals.
But defending champion Leiston Pickett of Australia came along and played spoiler, winning the sprint breaststroke event by 8/100ths of a second ahead of Atkinson.
Pickett won in 30.59 and Atkinson was second in 30.67. Atkinson won the first silver medal by a Jamaican swimmer at the Commonwealth Games. The last Jamaican to win a medal at the Games was Janelle Atkinson in 2002 with two bronze medals in the 400- and 800-meter freestyles in Manchester, England.
Atkinson and her SOFLO coach Chris Anderson had hopes of not only winning the gold medal but breaking the 30-second barrier and flirting with the world record of 29.48 in finals.
Atkinson went out fast early in the race after a great start. She looked to be in control until the final 15 meters when Pickett surged ahead and just out-touched her.
It was Jamaica’s first medal in any sport at the Games. Despite not winning gold, Atkinson was still pleased.
“I am ecstatic, even though when I look back I wanted to win the gold medal,” Atkinson said. “Any of the times in my other races would have won this race.”
Atkinson has two more chances at gold in the 100-meter breaststroke, her signature event, and 200-meter breaststroke. The heats and final for the 200-meter breaststroke are Saturday and heats and semifinal of the 100-meter breaststroke on Sunday.
In other championship finals, powerhouse Australia dominated the gold medal stand on Day Two of the meet. The Aussies won four gold medals.
Men’s 50-meter butterfly: British teenager Benjamin Proud, 19, outsprinted an experienced field to win England’s first swimming gold medal with a Commonwealth Games and national record of 22.93, the fastest time in the world this year. South Africa took the silver and bronze medals. Roland Schoeman, 34, was second in 23.13 to win his fourth consecutive medal at the Games. 200 butterfly Olympic champion Chad Le Clos was third in 23.36. “I am beyond excited,” Proud said. “Tears almost came into my eyes. I was just trying to make it feel like a normal race, not the Commonwealths.”
Florida alum Brett Fraser of the Cayman Islands was fifth in 23.66.
Bolles’ Joseph Schooling of Singapore finished seventh in 23.96. His 23.43 prelims time places him 13th in the 2014 world rankings and also tied for the Asian record. Schooling and his teammates are being coached by Bolles head coach Sergio Lopez.
Men’s 200-meter freestyle: Aussie Thomas Fraser-Holmes overtook early leader and teammate Cameron McEvoy to win in 1:45.08, the fastest time in the world this year. McEvoy took silver in 1:45.56. Calum Jarvis of Wales took the bronze in 1:46.53. Defending champion Robbie Renwick of Scotland was fifth in 1:46.79.
Men’s 400-meter individual medley: Scotland’s Dan Wallace of University of Florida won his country’s third gold medal in swimming by coming from behind and overtaking early leader Sebastien Rousseau of South Africa to win in 4:11.20. Aussie Thomas Fraser-Holmes was second in 4:12.04 and Rousseau faded to third in 4:13.09.
Men’s 100-meter backstroke: Brit Chris Walker-Hebborn broke the meet record and won in 53.12. Aussie Mitch Larkin won silver in 53.59 and Brit Liam Tancock and Aussie Josh Beaver tied for the bronze in 53.75.
Women’s 100-meter butterfly: Canadian Katerine Savard caught early leader Siobhan O’Connor of England to win in a meet record 57.40. O’Connor settled for the silver medal in 57.45 and Aussie Emma McKeon took the bronze in 57.66.
Men’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay: Australia held off South Africa to win in a meet record 3:13.44 with Tommaso D’Orsogna, Matt Abood, James Magnussen and Cameron McEvoy. South Africa was second in 3:15.17 and England was third in 3:16.37.
In the semifinals, Bahamian and Bolles alum Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace earned the third seed in the 50-meter freestyle in 24.42, sixth fastest time in the world this year.
Canadian Sinead Russell of the University of Florida is the third seed in the 100-meter backstroke in 59.91.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org