By Sharon Robb
August 2, 2017—Alia Atkinson of South Florida Aquatic Club won her first international gold medal of 2017 on Tuesday at the FINA World Cup Series opener at JSC Olympisky Sports Complex in Moscow.
The four-time Jamaican Olympian, who took three months off after a disappointing 2016 Rio Olympics where she was a medal favorite, won the 50-meter breaststroke just out-touching former world record Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania in 29.46.
Atkinson went 29.73 in morning prelims. Meilutyte finished second in 29.51. Natalia Ivaneeva of Russia was third in 29.87. Russian Yulia Efimova was seeded fifth after prelims but scratched from the final.
Atkinson just missed a medal in the 100-meter individual medley placing fourth in 59.55 just out-touching the Netherlands’ Femke Heemskerk in 59.57. Hungary’s world record holder Katinka Hosszu picked up her second gold medal of the day in 57.02 just ahead of Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom.
Atkinson picked up $1500 for the gold medal and $400 for fourth.
Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom was the highlight of the day. She broke the world record in the 50-meter freestyle in the short course meters meet in 23.10. It was her third world record in 11 days. She broke two at the FINA World Aquatics Championships in Hungary.
Katinka Hosszu won the 100-meter backstroke in 55.65, just one half second off her world record of 55.03.
South African Chad Le Clos surged in the final 50 meters to win the 200-meter freestyle in 1:42.54. His split of 25.71 overcame leader Aleksandr Krashnykh of Russia. Le Clos also won the 100-meter butterfly in 49.13. Brit Adam Barrett was second in 49.45 and American Tom Shields was third in 49.55.
Russian Kirill Prigoda won the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:02.16. Russian teammate Anton Chupkov, who won gold in the event last week at worlds, was third in 2:04.08.
Federica Pellegrini of Italy knocked off Spain’s Mireia Belmonte in the 400-meter freestyle in 3:57.80. Belmonte took silver in 3:58.24.
FSU alum Pavel Sankovich of Belarus won the 50-meter backstroke by 2/10ths in 23.20.
Germany’s Philip Heintz won the 400-meter individual medley in 4:04.93 with a margin of victory of 3.5 seconds. Aussie Mitch Larkin was second in 4:07.93.
Franziska Hentke of Germany overtook early leader Katinka Hosszu in the final 50 meters to win he 200-meter butterfly in 2:03.43. Hosszu faded on the back end and finished second in 2:05.36.
Russia, Poland and Germany were top three finishers n the mixed 200-meter medley relay.
Moscow is the first meet in which FINA World Cup’s new rules are being instituted. Olympic and World medalists are now allowed to bypass prelims and advance directly into finals. There is also a limit of four races per leg for swimmers. Prize money has been expanded to the top six finishers. Relays also earn prize money.
The two-day meet ends on Thursday. FINA World Cup’s Cluster One also features Berlin, Aug. 6-7, and Eindhoven, Aug. 10-11.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com