By Sharon Robb
August 3, 2015—Three-time Olympian Alia Atkinson broke the Jamaican national record in the 100-meter breaststroke semifinals Monday at the XVI FINA World Aquatic Championships in Kazan, Russia.
Against a stacked field that featured Russia’s Yuliya Efimova and Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte, the South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer swam the third fastest time in 1:06.21 to advance into Tuesday’s final. Her previous national record was 1:06.59 she set at the Pan American Games two weeks ago when she won a silver medal.
Her times moves her into fourth in the world rankings.
The reigning world short course champion and record holder said she doesn’t feel any pressure headed into the finals.
If she wins a medal, however, she will be the first Jamaican swimmer to win a long course world championship medal. Atkinson has never medaled at a major international long course meet aside from Pan Ams and Commonwealth Games
“I was really nervous this year, thinking that I had to prove myself again and again,” Atkinson said. “I did that for Pan Ams, and it was okay, but coming into worlds I was totally relaxed.”
Her splits were 30.91 and 35.30.
“Until the 75 I was probably at 1:05 pace,” Atkinson said. “It’s just that last 15 meters that I need to work on for tomorrow.”
In a shocker, American Jessica Hardy self-destructed down the stretch with a 36.03 split and finished 10th overall in 1:07.22 to miss the finals.
Colombian and SOFLO teammate Carolina Colorado was 42nd in the 100-meter backstroke in 1:03.26.
In Monday’s championships finals three world records were broken:
“Iron Lady” Katinka Hosszu of Hungary broke her first long course world record and defended her title in the 200-meter individual medley in 2:06.12. Kanako Watanabe of Japan was second in 2:08.45 and Siobhan O’Connor of Great Britain was third in 2:08.77. The three-time Olympian scratched from the 100-meter backstroke semifinal to go after the record. “It’s crazy to even say I am the fastest ever,” said Hosszu, who frequently trains in South Florida. “This was my biggest goal.” Her splits were 27.30, 31.64, 36.70 and 30.48. It was her fourth world long course career title. Hosszu has five more events remaining.
Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom lowered her own world and course records and won the 100-meter butterfly in 55.64. She first broke it on Sunday in 55.74. Jeanette Ottesen of Denmark took the silver in 57.05 and Ying Lu of China took the bronze in 57.48. “I’m very happy, it’s always good to show myself I can improve in the finals even if there are more nerves,” Sjostrom said.
American teenager Katie Ledecky, 18, broke her own world record in the 1500-meter freestyle in 15:27.71, shaving 0.65 seconds off her previous record during the morning heats. It was the fourth time she broke the record in the 1500. “I’m in quite a bit of shock right now,” Ledecky said. “I was barely even focusing on this morning’s swim. I was so relaxed. I realized kind of toward the end because I could see people waving. It’s probably one of the coolest world records I’ve broken.”
A day after winning the 4×100-meter freestyle relay, Olympic champion Florent Manaudou of France won the 50-meter butterfly in 22.97. Brazilian Nicolas Santos took silver in 23.09 and Laszlo Cseh of Hungary and Konrad Czerniak of Poland tied for the bronze in 23.15.
Britain’s world record holder Adam Peaty won his first world title in the 100-meter breaststroke in 58.52, 7/100ths of a second ahead of Cameron Van Der Burgh of South Africa in 58.59. Britain’s Ross Murdoch took the bronze in 59.09. Peaty is only the second British an and first since 1975 to win a world title. “Very painful but I didn’t give up an inch,” Peaty said. “It counted in the back end.”
After two days of swimming, Great Britain leads the medal count with four overall and France leads in gold medals with two. The United States has one gold and one bronze medal.
Tuesday’s men’s events are 50-meter breaststroke heats and semifinals; 200-meter butterfly heats and semifinals; 200-meter freestyle final and men’s 100-meter backstroke.
Tuesday’s women’s events are 200-meter freestyle heats and semifinals; 100-meter backstroke final, 1500-meter freestyle and 100-meter breaststroke final.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com