By Sharon Robb
December 3, 2014—Alia Atkinson will go for her first gold medal on Thursday at the 12th FINA World Short Course Swimming Championships at Hamad Aquatic Center in Doha, Qatar.
The three-time Jamaican Olympian and South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer is seeded second after morning prelims and semifinals of the 50-meter breaststroke on Wednesday.
Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte, who Atkinson has beaten twice on the recent FINA World Cup Series tour, grabbed the top seed for the championship final.
Meilutyte qualified first breaking her own meet record (29.44) in a best time 28.81 in the semifinals, just .01 seconds off Jessica Hardy’s 2009 world record. Atkinson earned the second seed in 28.99 and is also in the running for a world record.
Atkinson swam back-to-back in-season best times on opening day.
“She has more speed to show tomorrow,” said her longtime SOFLO coach Chris Anderson. “Tomorrow night she will clean up her first 25 and go for a personal-best time.”
Meilutyte had the fastest reaction time off the block, 0.61 to Atkinson’s 0.65. Bolles’ Valentina Artemeva of Russia is seeded seventh in 30.31.
On Day One, Spain’s Mireia Garcia Belmonte provided most of the fireworks. Belmonte, 24, broke two world records with impressive come-from-behind performances in both events.
Belmonte won the 200-meter butterfly in 1:59.61, both world and course records, 1:59.61. Her 100 splits were 27.75 and 30.49. She is the first woman to go under 2 minutes in the 200 butterfly.
Hungarian Katinka Hosszu was second in a best time and national record in 2:01.12. Germany’s Franziska Hentke was third in 2:03.89. Cammile Adams was top American placing sixth in 2:06.35.
The previous butterfly world record was 1:59.61 set by China’s Liu Zhige in 2009 when the full-body tech super suit was still legal.
With Hosszu leading by a half second, Belmonte came back in the final 50 meters with a 30.65 split.
In the 400-meter individual medley, Belmonte knocked off Hosszu, the race favorite, again with her second world record.
Belmonte came on in the back half of the race to win in 4:19.86, a second under Hosszu’s previous world record. Early in the race, Belmonte was nearly two seconds off world-record pace. Belmonte’s breaststroke split was 1:13.74 and freestyle split was 59.59.
Hosszu was second in 4:22.94 and defending champion Hannah Miley of Great Britain was third in 4:24.74. Florida alum Elizabeth Beisel just missed a medal, placing fourth in 4:25.56.
The third world record of the day came in the relay competition.
The Netherlands won the women’s 4×200-meter freestyle relay in world and meet records in 7:32.85 with Inge Dekker, Femke Heemskerk, Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Sharon van Rouwendaal. Heemskerk turned in a blistering 1:51.22 split.
China was second in 7:37.02 and Australia was third in 7:38.59. The U.S. was fifth in 7:39.48 with Shannon Vreeland, Kathleen Baker, Katie Drabot and Beisel swimming anchor.
In the men’s 100-meter breaststroke prelims, Brit Adam Peaty, 19, broke the national record in 57.02, breaking the previous mark of 57.52. He came back in semifinals and broke both the national and meet records in 56.43. Russian Kirill Pridgoda also broke a national record in 56.93.
Also in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke prelims, Florida State’s Rafael Van Leeuwaarde of Surinam set a national record in 1:01.32. “Satisfied with that swim and having a blast here in Doha,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
In other championship finals:
2014 FINA World Swimmer of the Year Chad le Clos of South Africa won his third short course world title by capturing the 200-meter freestyle in 1:41.45, the fastest time in the world this year. Le Clos was second for most of the race before surging in the last 50 meters. His 100 splits were 23.52 and 26.13. Russian Danila Izotov was second in 1:41.67 and Ryan Lochte was third in 1:42.09.
France won the men’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay in a meet record 3:03.78 with Clement Mignon, Fabien Gilot, Florent Manaudou and Mehdy Metella and reclaimed its 2010 world title. Russia was second in 3:04.18 and the U.S. was third in 3:05.58 with Jimmy Feigen, Matt Grevers, Lochte and Tom Shields to keep its podium appearance in tact.
The state of Florida has 29 nine swimmers, who train in Florida, representing 20 countries. The biennial event features 1,100 swimmers from 171 countries.
Universal Sports Network is televising the meet over ten hours with nightly broadcasts at 8 p.m. The two-hour daily highlight shows feature the best of each day’s races.
FLORIDA SWIMMERS AT WORLD SHORT COURSE
Max Abreu, Paraguay, Bolles
Marcelo Acosta, El Salvador, Azura Florida Aquatics
Alia Atkinson, Jamaica, South Florida Aquatic Club
Jevon Atkinson, Jamaica, South Florida Aquatic Club
Valentina Artemevia, Russia, Bolles
Elizabeth Beisel, United States, Gator Swim Club
Elvis Burrows, Bahamas, Orlando
Lani Cabrera, Barbados, Florida Gulf Coast
Marcin Cieslak, Poland, Gator Swim Club
Carolina Colorado, Colombia, Bolles
Mitch D’Arrigo, Italy, Gator Swim Club
Brett Fraser, Cayman Islands, Florida/Bolles
Patrick Groters, Aruba, Pine Crest Swim Team
Talisa Lanoe, Kenya, Performance Aquatics (PAQ)
Ryan Lochte, Daytona Beach, United States
Hilda Luthersdottir, Iceland, Gator Swim Club
Melanie Margalis, United States, St. Petersburg Aquatics
Noah Mascoll-Gomes, Antigua & Barbuda, Azura
Jorge Murillo, Colombia, Bolles
Vien Nguyen, Vietnam, St. Augustine Swim Team Cyclones
Chinyere Pigot, Suriname, Metro Aquatics
Zuhayr Pigot, Suriname, Metro Aquatics
Jared Pike, South Africa, Club Seminole
Omar Pinzon, Colombia, Bolles
Sebastien Rousseau, South Africa, Gator Swim Club
Pavel Sankovich, Belarus, Club Seminole
Mario Todorivic, Croatia, Bolles
Rafael Van Leeuwaarde, Suriname, Florida State
Ariel Weech, Bahamas, Orlando
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com