By Sharon Robb
January 17, 2015—South Florida Aquatic Club’s Alia Atkinson, after two runner-up finishes, was named the 2014 Jamaica Sportswoman of the Year Friday night at a gala event at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston.
Atkinson, 25, a three-time Olympian for Jamaica, broke out of the shadows of track and field athletes that usually dominate the coveted annual RKR Sports Foundation’s award.
It took a world record and first-ever gold medal at the FINA World Short Course Swimming Championships in December to earn the award.
Atkinson was the first non-track and field athlete honored in forty-one years, another milestone for the sport and swimmer, who became the first black woman to win a world title and tie the world record in the 100-meter breaststroke in December.
Atkinson also took silver and bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland and finished third overall in the FINA World Cup Short Course Series.
Atkinson is only the third swimmer to be honored as Sportswoman of the Year. Belinda Phillips (1974) and Frances Noble (1968) were the others to win the award since its inception 54 years ago.
Atkinson has been runner-up to track star Shelly-Ann Fraser for the past two years. She has been nominated five times.
“It is a single honor, one which I am very proud of,” Atkinson said. “It shows that I am still performing at high standards.
“Being recognized in such a manner bodes well for swimming in Jamaica,” Atkinson said. “It helps keep swimming on the map and hopefully, will provide the impetus necessary for others to enter swimming and succeed.
“This is more than about me. A country…a nation…a race. This is just not mine.”
Atkinson was also presented the Gleaner Honour Award and People’s Choice Award for Performance of the Year. Atkinson finished ahead of Nicholas Walters, Jaheel Hyde, Kemar Lawrence and Andre Russell. Atkinson also took home trophies for her world record and Commonwealth performance.
SOFLO head coach Chris Anderson, who has coached the Flanagan High School and Texas A&M alum since she was 14 and played a huge role in her success, and SOFLO assistant coach Megan Garland, who are conducting clinics in Jamaica, were among VIP guests at the awards ceremony.
In another departure, WBA featherweight champion boxer Nicholas (The Axeman) Walters was named Jamaica’s National Sportsman of the Year.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com