By Sharon Robb
August 8, 2016—-After a poor start off the blocks, Alia Atkinson was never in the race.
In her fourth Olympic appearance for Jamaica, the South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer left the pool deck Monday night at Olympic Aquatics Stadium without a medal.
Swimming in Lane 7, Atkinson, 27, finished a disappointing eighth in 1:08.10 in the final of the 100-meter breaststroke, her signature event.
It was a heart-wrenching finish for the well-liked swimmer favored to medal and become her country’s first Olympic medalist in the sport.
American teenager Lilly King, 19, won the gold medal in an Olympic record 1:04.93, finishing ahead of Russian 2015 world champion Yulia Efimova, who tested positive twice for banned substances yet was inexplicably cleared to compete by the IOC and FINA on Saturday.
Efimova took the silver and American Katie Meilli won the bronze.
“Winning a gold medal, I hope I made a statement,” King said. “We can still compete clean and do well at the Olympic Games. That’s how it should be.
“This is incredible, I am speechless,” King said. “I told Katie in 15 minutes our lives were going to change.”
Reigning Olympic champion Ruta Meilutyte was seventh.
There were three other Olympic medal finals.
China’s Sun Yang put in a surge in the final 25 meters to win the gold medal in the 200-meter freestyle in 1:44.65 and second gold of the Games. South Africa’s Chad Le Clos, the early leader with incredible underwaters, took silver in 1:45.20 just out-touching American Conor Dwyer, who took bronze in a best time 1:45.23.
“I am just happy to get on the podium, it’s a relief,” Dwyer said.
Hungarian Katinka Hosszu also won her second gold medal of the Games, winning the 100-meter backstroke in 58.45. American Kathleen Baker, 19, who battled back from Crohn’s disease to make the U.S. team, won the silver in 58.75. Canadian Kylie Masse and China’s Fu Yuanhui tied for the bronze in 58.76.
“This means the world to me,” Baker said. “I am going to cry if I keep talking about it. I couldn’t be happier. This is so cool.”
Jacksonville Bolles alum Ryan Murphy kept the U.S. tradition alive in the 100-meter backstroke winning in an Olympic record 51.97. It is the sixth consecutive Olympic Games the U.S. has won a gold medal in the event. American David Plummer, 30, the oldest swimmer on the team, took bronze in 52.40 in his Olympic debut.
“It means everything to me to be in that group of backstrokers that includes Aaron Piersol and Matt Grevers,” Murphy said. “To follow the path they set for us is really cool.”
Only 35/100ths of a second separated the top six swimmers in the backstroke field.
Hungary’s Tamas Kenderesi and American Michael Phelps finished .16 seconds part in the second heat of the 200-meter butterfly semifinals. Reigning Olympic champion Chad Le Clos earned the fourth seed in 1:55.19 not long after winning silver in the 200 freestyle.
After swimming in the faster 200-meter freestyle semifinal, Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrum and American Katie Ledecky, world record holders and Olympic gold medalists already, will be seeded one-two for Tuesday night’s final. Only 6/100ths of a second separated them in the qualifier.
In one of the biggest disappointments of the night, 2012 Olympic darling Missy Franklin failed to make Tuesday night’s 200-meter freestyle final finishing eighth in the slower semifinal in 1:57.56. Franklin tied for 13th overall.
DAY 4: TUESDAY
AFTERNOON SESSION: Noon, Men’s 100-meter freestyle heats; 12:26 p.m., Women’s 200-meter butterfly heats; 12:48 p.m., Men’s 200-meter breaststroke heats; 1:15 p.m., 4×200-meter freestyle relay heats.
EVENING SESSION: 9 p.m., 100-meter freestyle semifinals; 9:19 p.m., Women’s 200-meter freestyle final; 9:28 p.m., Men’s 200-meter butterfly final; 9:34 p.m., Women’s 200-meter butterfly semifinals; 10 p.m., Men’s 200-meter breaststroke semifinals; 10:29 p.m., Women’s 200-meter individual medley final; 10:38 p.m., Men’s 4×200-meter freestyle relay final.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org