By Sharon Robb
July 28, 2014—In her final race of the 20th Commonwealth Games, South Florida Aquatic Club’s Alia Atkinson had the gold medal slip away at Tollcross Swimming Centre.
The three-time Jamaican Olympian, poised to win her country’s first gold medal in swimming in her third Commonwealth Games appearance, was the top qualifier in the 100-meter breaststroke and was leading the field until the final 15 meters.
Atkinson, 25, was off the blocks like a rocket and went out fast with a 30.81 split. The race favorite was leading by 0.66 seconds until late in the race when she started to tighten up and faded to third for the bronze in 1:08.14.
Even the BBC announcers were rooting for Atkinson yelling “Come on Atkinson, you can do it” along with the sellout crowd that included Prince William, his wife Kate Middleton and brother Harry sitting at the top of the stands.
The likeable swimmer had similar races in the 50-meter breaststroke where she took silver and 200-meter breaststroke where she was shut out of medals after fading in her race. In the 100, she was unable to duplicate her semifinal swim of 1:06.87.
Brit Sophie Taylor saw her opportunity and blew past Atkinson with her killer instinct to put the race away and win the gold medal in a national record 1:06.35. Only Ruta Meilutyte (1:05.63), Kanako Watanabe (1:05.88) and Rikke Moeller Pedersen (1:06.19) have gone faster this year. Aussie Lorna Tonks took the silver in 1:07.34. Atkinson was visibly disappointed as she exited the pool.
On Day 5 of the competition, Atkinson leaves the Games with a silver medal in the 50-meter breaststroke and bronze medal. She is the first Jamaican swimmer to medal since Janelle Atkinson won two bronze medals at the 2002 Games in the 400- and 800-meter freestyles.
In other championship finals:
Men’s 200-meter backstroke: It was another 1-2-3 Aussie sweep for the second time in swimming. Mitch Larkin won in 1:55.83, just a half second off his season-best. It was the first time Australia won gold in the event since 1974. Josh Beaver took the silver in 1:56.19 and Matson Lawson took the bronze in 1:56.63. New Zealand’s Corey Main, the early leader after 100 meters, just missed a medal finishing fourth in 1:57.79. Main has been on a swimming scholarship at University of Florida since January 2013 and has settled into the strong training atmosphere.
Women’s 800-meter freestyle: Jazz Carlin, 23, won Wales’ first gold medal in swimming in a Games record 8:18.11. After the lead changed hands four times, Carlin took off on the bell lap with a late kick and extended her lead to a body length. New Zealand’s Lauren Boyle took silver in 8:20.59 and Canadian Brittany MacLean took bronze in 8:20.91.
Women’s 200-meter butterfly: Despite Brit Aimee Willmott taking the race out fast, Canadian Audrey Lacroix, the oldest woman in the field, won her first gold medal in three Commonwealth Games appearances in 2:07.61. Willmott was second in 2:08.07 and Aussie Maddie Groves was third in 2:08.44. It was Canada’s third swimming gold medal.
Men’s 50-meter breaststroke: South African Cameron van der Burgh powered his way through the race to win back-to-back titles in a Games record 26.76. Van der Burgh held off young sensation Adam Peaty of England, was second in 26.78. Aussie Christian Sprenger was third in 27.46.
Women’s 100-meter freestyle: For the first 50 meters Aussie Cate Campbell was under world record pace with a 25.01 split. She was unable to maintain that pace for the second half of the race but managed to hold off her younger sister Bronte for the gold medal in a Games record 52.68. Bronte Campbell took silver in 52.86. Emma McKeon was third in 53.61 to make it an Aussie 1-2-3 sweep for the third time at the Games’ swimming. Bahamian Olympian and Bolles alum Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace was fifth in 54.37. Canada had three swimmers in the final.
Men’s 100-meter butterfly: South African Chad le Clos came from behind early leader Jason Dunford of Kanya and then held off a late challenge from Bolles Joseph Schooling of Singapore to win in a Games record 51.29, the fastest time in the world this year. Schooling, 19, broke his own national record and won a silver medal in 51.69, fourth fastest time in the world this year. He broke his previous record of 52.22 which he set earlier in the Games. It was Singapore’s first-ever silver medal in swimming and just the third Commonwealth Games medal in swimming won by an Asian. Brit Adam Barrett was third in 51.93.
In the men’s 50-meter freestyle semifinals, England’s Ben Proud earned the top seed with a national and Games record of 21.76. Aussie Cameron McEvoy was the only other swimmer to break 22 with a 21.94.
In the women’s 50-meter backstroke semifinals, Georgia Davies of Wales earned the top seed in 27.61, a national record.
After five days, Australia leads the overall Games medal count with 87 including 30 gold medals followed by England (74), Scotland (33) and South Africa (24).
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com