By Sharon Robb
August 8, 2016—-South Florida Aquatic Club’s Alia Atkinson made it to Monday night’s Olympic final in the 100-meter breaststroke late Sunday night at Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Barra Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro.
And, this time around she didn’t need a swim-off to get there.
The four-time Jamaican Olympian, looking for her first Olympic medal, qualified fifth in 1:06.52, tying American Katie Meili.
At the 2012 London Olympics, Atkinson needed a swim-off to get into the final where she just missed a medal by placing fourth.
On Monday night Atkinson has a shot at history against a stellar field that includes 19-year-old American Lily King, the fastest qualifier, 2012 Olympic champion Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania and Russian 2015 world champion Yulia Efimova, who has tested positive twice for banned substances yet was cleared to compete by the IOC on Saturday.
SOFLO teammate Timothy Wynter of Jamaica, making his Olympic debut in the 100-meter backstroke, finished second in the opening heat in a national record 57.20. Wynter was in Lane 5 in the opening heat with a qualifying time of 57.47, his previous best and national record.
On Day Two, three more world records were broken and Michael Phelps won his 19th gold medal and 23rd medal overall as a member of the winning 4×100-meter freestyle relay.
After Caeleb Dressel’s opening leg of 48.10, a personal best, Phelps, in his Rio debut, swam the second leg in 47.12 to enable Ryan Held and Nathan Adrian to finish the task for the U.S. in 3:09.92. The win avenged its 2012 Olympic loss to France which finished second in 3:10.53 and favorite Australia in 3:11.37.
“We wanted to bring it back to American soil,” Phelps said. “That 2012 loss left a sour taste in my mouth. I wanted to try and do as much as I could. It felt good to get the last 400 free relay of my career and this thing around my neck.”
The first world record of the evening was broken by Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom. The three-time Olympian who had never won an Olympic medal, not only took gold, but broke her own world record in the 100-meter butterfly in 55.48. Her previous record was 55.64.
“Look at my smile, I am so happy with this,” Sjostrum said.
Great Britain’s Adam Peaty, 21, broke his own world record and won gold in the 100-meter breaststroke in 57.13. Peaty now owns the seven fastest times in the world in the breaststroke. American Cody Miller broke the American record with his third place of 58.87. Defending Olympic champion Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa was second in 58.69.
As expected, American superstar Katie Ledecky, 19, broke her own world record to win the 400-meter freestyle in 3:56.46, improving her previous mark of 3:58.37.
“I felt so comfortable in the morning that I was really confident I would break it tonight,” Ledecky said. It was her third Olympic medal and second individual gold.
Defending Olympic gold medalist Dana Vollmer, sixteen months after the birth of her first child, got the medal she wanted, taking third in the 100-meter butterfly in 56.65, two seconds faster than she swam a nationals.
“I am so happy with it,” Vollmer said. “All I wanted was to get a medal. To be here again is exciting.”
DAY THREE, MONDAY
AFTERNOON SESSION: Noon, Women’s 200-meter freestyle heats; 12:32 p.m., Men’s 200-meter butterfly heats; 12:54 p.m., Women’s 200-meter individual medley.
EVENING SESSION: 9:12 p.m., Women’s 200-meter freestyle semifinals; 9:21 p.m., Men’s 200-meter freestyle final; 9:30 p.m., Women’s 100-meter backstroke final; 9:38 p.m., Men’s 100-meter backstroke final; 9:54 p.m., Women’s 100-meter breaststroke final; 10:07 p.m., Men’s 200-meter butterfly semifinals; 10:33 p.m., Women’s 200-meter individual medley.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com