SOFLO’s Alia Atkinson’s Medal Quest Ends In Final Olympic Swim

By Sharon Robb
TOKYO, Japan, July 25, 2021–Alia Atkinson, the most decorated swimmer in Jamaica, competed in her final Olympic race Sunday at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

Making her fifth Olympic appearance, the longtime South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer saw her medal hopes end in her opening heat of the 100-meter breaststroke.

Atkinson finished third in 1:07.70, falling short of the semifinal round of 16. She had a slight lead at the halfway mark in 31.48 after an 0.67 reaction time off the blocks, but faded down the finish with a split time of 36.22.

The fastest event qualifier was South African Tatjana Schoenmaker, who broke American Lilly King’s five-year old Olympic record in 1:04.82. The women’s final is Monday.

Atkinson, at 32, one of oldest swimmers in the field, was hoping to add an Olympic medal to her already impressive swimming resume that includes three short course world records, 26 international medals including four short course World Championship gold medals, 14 long course and 11 short course national records.

“Not gonna lie, I may have teared up on this,” Atkinson wrote on her Facebook page.

“It’s funny. Looking back, the years went by so fast and before I realized it, I was looking at the end of it,” Atkinson said after her race.

“Would I give it all up for an Olympic medal?” and honestly, I wouldn’t trade this journey for anything. All the ups and downs has made me who I am today ( though at times it feels like there were more downs than ups), but it taught me how to get up and God taught me how to smile through it all.

“My x5 Olympic journey ends here, but the Olympic medal is still waiting for some Jamaican girl/boy to claim it. I know you can you, so keep pushing.

“I hope the road was/is less rocky for you; if so, then I have indeed succeeded. We have waited a long time for you, so thank you for staying true and carrying the fly high.”

After her race, she was deluged with appreciative fan mail on Facebook: “Proud of you Alia, thanks for representing us…your effort is always appreciated…well done on your long and illustrious career representing Jamaica…you have always given it your all…thank you for always representing Jamaica with humility and grace. You’ve had an amazing career. We are very proud of all you have done…You have been an awesome ambassador of Jamaica…one luv.”

It was a record fifth Olympic appearance for both Atkinson and her longtime SOFLO coach Chris Anderson. Atkinson will continue to swim in FINA World Cups, FINA World Championships in Doha, Qatar and International Swimming League for the UK-based London Roar in the pro league’s third season that opens Aug. 26 in Naples, Italy.

At the 2012 London Summer Olympics she was only the second Jamaican swimmer to place in the top four at an Olympic Games, finishing fourth in the 100 breaststroke. In 2016, she was eighth in the Rio Olympics.

In 2014, she was the second woman to swim a 1:02.36 in the short course 100-meter breaststroke tying the world record in the event. In 2016, Atkinson set a new world record in the short course 50-meter breaststroke. Two years later, in 2018, she set a new world record in the short course 50-meter breaststroke for the second time.

Martin Lyn, president of the Aquatics Sports Association of Jamaica, praised Atkinson to the local media before she raced.

“The fact is that her legacy is already set, she has done incredibly well for Jamaica,” Lyn said. “She has put Jamaica on the world stage, not just in what she has achieved, but basically in her performances as well.

“She has excelled in a sport that predominantly consists of Caucasians or Europeans. She has done extremely well, holding world records. Her name is already set and is secure in the annals of swimming history.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at

SOFLO’s Julio Horrego Makes Olympic Debut; Alia Atkinson Begins Medal Quest Sunday; Kalisz, Hafnaoui, Ohashi Win Gold

By Sharon Robb
TOKYO, Japan, July 24, 2021–South Florida Aquatic Club’s Julio Horrego had his first Olympic moment Saturday.

Despite no fans in the 15,000-seat Tokyo Aquatics Centre, Horrego, 22, swimming the 100-meter breaststroke in Lane 5 in Heat 2, was fourth in his heat and 43rd overall in 1:02.45. He was 29.09 at the turn. Horrego has the 200-meter breaststroke remaining.

SOFLO teammate Alia Atkinson, 32, of Jamaica will make her fifth and final Olympic appearance when she competes in the heats of the 100-meter breaststroke Sunday morning at 6:30 a.m. EST. The short course world champion and national record holder’s mantra for her final Summer Games has been “last swim, fast swim.”

Other local swimmers results:

Former St. Andrew’s Swimming and Florida State’s Izaak Bastian of the Bahamas was eighth in the 100-meter breaststroke heat and 40th overall in 1:01.87.

Peru’s Joaquin Vargas of Azura Florida Aquatics was 25th overall in the 400-meter freestyle in 3:52.94. Vargas competes Sunday in the 200 freestyle and Azura teammate Celina Marquez of El Salvador and Nova Southeastern competes in the 100 backstroke in the opening heats.

University of Miami’s Remedy Rule of the Philippines was 25th in the 100-meter butterfly in 59.68.

In the championship medal finals:

Men’s 400 individual medley: Americans Chase Kalisz and Jay Litherland finished one-two. Kalisz, 27, of Bel Air, Md., a silver medalist in 2016, won gold in 4:09.42. Kalisz pulled away from the field in the breaststroke and was 2.5 seconds ahead going into the freestyle. Litherland came on in the freestyle to clinch the silver in 4:10.28.

“This means the world to me,” said Kalisz, obviously in pain after leaving it all in the pool. “This was the last thing I really wanted to accomplish in my swim career. It’s something that was a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. I can’t believe it…I really can’t believe it.”

Men’s 400 freestyle: In a shocker, teenager Ahmed Hafnaoui, 18, of Tunisia, swimming in Lane 8 won his country’s first Olympic medal in the event and only fifth medal in any sport. With an insane kick at the finish, the youngest swimmer in the final won in 3:34.36, out-touching Aussie Jack McLoughlin in 3:43.52. The Tunisian had only qualified eighth by 8/100ths of a second (3:45.68). He is only the second swimmer from Tunisia to make a final. The son of former Tunisia national basketball player, Mohamed Hafnaoui was 12 when he joined Tunisia’s national swimming program. University of Florida junior Kieran Smith, making his Olympic debut, hung on to take the bronze in 3:43.94.

“I just can’t believe it, it is amazing, I am Olympic champion now,” Hafnaoui said. “I don’t know how I did it, I just put my head to the water. I just can’t believe it. “This is a dream that came true.”

Women’s 400-meter individual medley: Japan’s Yui Ohashi won her country’s first gold medal in 4:32.08. She had a two-body length lead during the breaststroke leg. American Emma Weyant, 19, of Sarasota Sharks, fourth going into the backstroke, came back to take silver in her Olympic debut in 4:32.76. U.S. teammate Hali Flickinger was third in 4:34.90. Reigning Olympic, world and European champion and world record holder Katinka Hosszu of Hungary, at 32 the oldest in the field, faded to fifth in 4:35.98. Weyant top seed in the 400 IM after prelims in 4:33.55.

“This is my first (major) international meet,” said Weyant after prelims. “It was really cool to be in the Olympics. I was really just trying to set myself up well for tomorrow morning and execute my race.”

After the final, Weyant said, “I think my mom and dad just fainted. This is just crazy to be a silver medalist and race the best in the world.”

Women’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay: Australia broke the first world record in swimming blowing away the field in 3:29.69 with Bronte Campbell, Cate Campbell, Emma McKeon and Meg Harris. Canada was second in 3:32.78 and the U.S., with Simone Manuel on anchor leg, was third in 3:32.81.

In the biggest upset of the day, world champion and local hero Daiya Seto of Japan missed the final in the 400-meter individual medley, an event he was the heavy favorite. He had the fastest time (4:09.02) of the year. He was fifth in his heat and ninth overall missing the final by 0.32 seconds. After 300 meters he was a full body length ahead and then let it slip away on the freestyle leg. Seto still has the 200 IM left, which he is defending world champion.

Among the limited audience was First Lady Dr. Jill Biden. Members of the U.S. swimming team cheered and chanted from the stands for Dr. Biden, who sat across the pool and waved as swimming kicked off.

Without fans, masked teams had ample room to spread out in socially distanced seats above the deck. The U.S. contingent waved tiny American flags and pounded red-white-and-blue Thunderstix, while the Germans spread their large-sized flag over two rows of seats.

NBC is hosting watch parties for parents of Olympians in Orlando.

400-meter individual medley: 1. Yui Ohashi, Japan 4:32.08, 2. Emma Weyant, US 4:32.76, 3. Hali Flickinger, US 4:34.90.

4×100-meter freestyle relay: 1. Australia 3:29.69, 2. Canada 3:32.78, 3. United States 3:32.81.

400-meter individual medley: 1. Chase Kalisz, US 4:09.42, 2. Jay Litherland, US 4:10.28, 3. Brendon Smith, AUS 4:10.38.

400-meter freestyle: 1. Ahmed Hafnaoui, Tunisia 3:43.36, 2. Jack McLoughlin, AUS 3:43.52, 3. Kieran Smith, US 3:43.94.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

SOFLO’s Martin, Vallmitjana, Girls’ 10&Under Relay Win On Day Three Of FGC Junior Olympics

By Sharon Robb
STUART, July 24, 2021–South Florida Aquatic Club is sitting pretty heading into the fourth and final day of the Florida Gold Coast 14&Under Long Couse Junior Olympics Swimming Championships at Sailfish Splash Waterpark.

The defending champion leads Metro Aquatics in combined, 1,466-1,367. The girls team leads Metro Aquatics, 736.50-584. The boys team trails Metro Aquatics, 783-729.50.

Over three days it’s been a total team effort with SOFLO leading in points in the girls’ 10-and-under and 13-14 age groups and boys’ 10-and-under and 11-12.

SOFLO is seeking its 12th overall title in club history including 11th consecutive JO long course title.

After being washed out Friday night, Mother Nature smiled upon the meet Saturday enabling meet organizers to get in both prelim and finals racing.

Among SOFLO JO champions were:

Gianna Martin, 10, 50-meter breaststroke, 42.07. She has 52 points in high point.

Juan Vallmitjana, 12, 400-meter freestyle, 4:30.38, time drop 7.70. He is tied for the lead in high point with 94 points.

The girls’ 10-and-under 200-meter medley relay of Sofia Rodriguez, Christie Ann Lumsden, Jemma Baldwin and Gianna Martin won in 2:30.38.

Over three days, SOFLO has seven individual JO titles.

Other SOFLO swimmers in the top three were:

Jemma Baldwin, 10, 50-meter butterfly, second, 35.16, time drop 2.09.

Gabriella DeLuna, 14, 100-meter backstroke, second 1:08.47.

Noah Mejias, 10, 50-meter breaststroke, second 43.44.

Juan Vallmitjana, 12, third, 100-meter freestyle, 1:01.42, time drop 0.74.

The boys’ 10-and-under 200-meter medley relay of Lance Bergeron-Menard, Noah Mejias, Eric Ferrer and Guillermo was second in 2:33.69.

The boys’ 11-12 200-meter medley relay of Connor Jimenez, Joshua Menezes, Jose Rincon and Juan Vallmitjana was third in 2:14.05.

The boys’ 13-14 200-meter medley relay of Hashan Ekanayake, Alexander Miller, Jaden Amores and Kevin Moya was third in 1:59.16.

Other SOFLO top three finishers were:

The four-day meet concludes on Sunday with 8:30 a.m. prelims and 5:30 p.m. finals.

SOFLO has 58 swimmers (29 girls and 29 boys) in 307 individual events and relays.

North Palm Beach Swim Club and Martin County Swimming are meet co-hosts. COVID-19 safety protocols are being observed.

Spectators are only permitted in designated areas of the pool deck unless they are registered with USA swimming as an athlete or as a non-athlete and are working the meet. The only exception is for timers and volunteers assisting with the conduct of the meet.

: 1. South Florida Aquatic Club 736.50, 2. Metro Aquatics 584, 3. St. Andrew’s Aquatics 486.50, 4. Midtown Weston 439, 5. Gulliver Swim Club 310, 6. Wahoos of Wellington 305, 7. North Palm Beach 294, 8. Jupiter Dragons 273.50, 9. Coral Springs Swim Club 244, 10. Swim Fort Lauderdale 165.50.

BOYS TEAM TOTALS: 1. Metro Aquatics 783, 2. South Florida Aquatic Club 729.50, 3. St. Andrew’s Aquatics 332, 4. Ransom Everglades 310, 5. Coral Springs Swim Club 287, 6. Gulliver 277, 7. Blue Marlins of Hialeah Garden 248.50, 8. Jupiter Dragons 227, 9. Midtown Weston 196, 10. Hurricane Aquatics 172.

GIRLS: 10-and-under, 1. SOFLO 310, 2. Metro Aquatics 206, 3. Gulliver 120; 11-12, 1. Jupiter Dragons 273.50, 2. Midtown Western 263, 3. Wahoos of Wellington 245, 6. SOFLO 183.50; 13-14, 1. SOFLO 243, 2. St. Andrew’s 239, 3. Gulliver 190.
BOYS: 10-and-under, 1. SOFLO 282, 2. Metro Aquatics 219, 3. Coral Springs 165; 11-12, 1. SOFLO 229.50, 2. Jupiter Dragons 197, 3. St. Andrew’s 189; 13-14, 1. Metro Aquatics 470, 2. SOFLO 218, 3. Hurricane Aquatics 171.

100-meter freestyle:
10-and-under, 1. Penelope Lopez-Casula, EA 1:07.84.
11-12, 1. Alera Hurwitz, SAS 1:02.76; SOFLO: 4. Amanda Grubbs 1:03.41, time drop 2.84, 7. Lydia Smutny 1:05.67.

200-meter freestyle:
13-14, 1. Emma Herrera, Unattached 2:07.54.

50-meter butterfly:
10-and-under, 1. Antonia Moreno, GRSC 35.05; SOFLO: 2. Jemma Baldwin 35.16, time drop 2.09, 4. Sofia Rodriguez 36.71.
11-12, 1. Alera Hurwitz, SAS 30.37.

200-meter butterfly:
13-14, 1. Sofia Jorge, MAC 2:22.31.

50-meter breaststroke:
10-and-under, 1. Gianna Martin, SOFLO 42.07; SOFLO: 4. Christie Ann Lumsden 42.33, time drop 3.19.
11-12, 1. Tessa Broedell, JUP 35.68.

100-meter backstroke:
13-14, 1. Carolyn Powell, CSSC 1:07.48; SOFLO: 2. Gabriella DeLuna 1:08.47, 6. Katelyn Gembicki 1:11.52. time drop 5.34, 8. Izzy Wilson 1:12.33, time drop 5.00.

400-meter freestyle:
11-12, 1. Allison Kelly, JUP 4:48.91; SOFLO: 4. Amanda Grubbs 4:53.13, time drop 11.89, 14. Alexandra Strong 5:09.06, time drop 6.47, 16. Sofia Gomez 5:13.34, time drop 1.36, 22. Jenesys Amores 5:18.21.

200-meter medley relay:
10-and-under, 1. SOFLO 2:30.38 (Sofia Rodriguez, Christie Ann Lumsden, Jemma Baldwin, Gianna Martin), 2. Metro Aquatics 2:35.55.

11-12, 1. Midtown Weston 2:14.96, 6. SOFLO 2:19.93 (Lydia Smutny, Ainsley Miller, Sofia Lugo, Amanda Grubbs).

13-14, 1. Gulliver 2:06.31; 5. SOFLO 2:09.49 (Izzy Wilson, Gabriella DeLuna, Gabriela Avila, Katelyn Gembicki), 2. Lake Lytal Lightning 2:11.00, 3. Coral Springs Swim Club 2:12.04.

100-meter freestyle:
10-and-under, 1. Trace Colton, NPB 1:04.34; SOFLO: 6. tie, Eric Ferrer 1:12.29, time drop 4.05 and Noah Mejias 1:12.29, time drop 3.68.
11-12, 1. Julian Granison, WOW 59.60; SOFLO: 3. Juan Vallmitjana 1:01.42, time drop 0.74.

200-meter freestyle:
13-14, 1. Giulian Martin, CANE 1:58.08; SOFLO: 6. Hashan Ekanayake 2:02.45, time drop 5.57.

50-meter butterfly:
10-and-under, 1. Trace Colton, NPB 32.30.
11-12, 1. Juan Leon, Unattached 29.27; SOFLO: 7. Jose Rincon 31.88.

200-meter butterfly:
13-14, 1. Roberto Gossmann, TS Aquatics 2:12.44; SOFLO: 7. Jaden Amores 2:21.97, time drop 0.62.

50-meter breaststroke:
10-and-under, 1. Jayden Park, MWA 40.82; SOFLO: 2. Noah Mejias 43.44.
11-12, 1. Juan Leon, Unattached 34.94.

100-meter backstroke:
13-14, 1. Anthony Pineiro, MAC 1:01.54; SOFLO: 7. Hashan Ekanayake 1:07.11.

400-meter freestyle:
11-12, 1. Juan Vallmitjana, SOFLO 4:30.38, time drop 7.70; SOFLO: 18. Joshua Menezes 5:05.17, time drop 7.31, 21. Ryan Harries 5:07.10, time drop 1.31.

200-meter medley relay:
10-and-under, 1. Metro Aquatics 2:32.64, 2. SOFLO 2:33.69 (Lance Bergeron-Menard, Noah Mejias, Eric Ferrer, Guillermo Mantilla), 3. Coral Springs Swim Club 2:40.46.

11-12, 1. Jupiter Dragons 2:09.39, 3. SOFLO 2:14.05 (Connor Jimenez, Joshua Menezes, Jose Rincon, Juan Vallmitjana).

13-14, 1. Metro Aquatics 1:54.57; 3. SOFLO 1:59.16 (Hashan Ekanayake, Alexander Miller, Jaden Amores, Kevin Moya).

Sharon Robb can be reached at