SOFLO’s Alia Atkinson Heads Large Florida Gold Coast Contingent At FINA Short Course World Championships; Big Prize Money On The Line

By Sharon Robb
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, December 13, 2021–World record holder Alia Atkinson is expected to take her final bow this week at the 15th FINA Short Course World Championships at Etihad Arena.

The five-day meet begins Thursday and ends Tuesday, Dec. 21. Etihad Arena is Yas Island’s new multi-purpose arena set on the stunning waterfront at Yas Bay.

Atkinson will be joined by SOFLO teammate and 2020 Olympian Julio Horrego, representing Honduras.

Atkinson, a five-time Jamaican Olympian who turned 33 on Dec. 11, is expected to retire from the sport at the end of the year. She recently completed her International Swimming League season with the London Roar, that finished third in the final playoffs.

Atkinson competed in her fifth Olympics in Tokyo where she finished third in her 100-meter breaststroke heat and failed to qualify for the semifinals. She did final in London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016 where she finished fourth and eighth respectively.

She told the Jamaica Observer, “If you see me next year, then ask me what happened because that’s not the plan right now.”

Atkinson announced after Tokyo it was her final Olympic appearance.

“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. “I wouldn’t trade this journey for anything.”

Atkinson won the 100-meter breaststroke at the 2014 FINA Short Course World Championships in Doha, Qatar. She tied the World Record and gave Jamaica its first swimming gold medal at World Championships. She also took silver in the 50-meter breaststroke in Doha.

The following August, she became the first Jamaican swimmer to win a long course worlds medal when she took bronze in the 100-meter breaststroke and silver in the 50-meter breaststroke at the 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan.

Atkinson broke her own world record (28.64) in the 50-meter breaststroke (28.56) at the short course meters 2018 World Cup. Later that year she added two more World Championship gold medals in the 50- and 100-meter breaststrokes and bronze in the 100-meter individual medley.

FINA announced the prize money pool for the meet is more than $2.8 million, including a 50 percent increase in prize money for individual swimmers. There will also be a $50,000 bonus for any swimmer who breaks a world record.

The top eight individual payoffs for first through eighth place are $10,000, $8,000, $7,000, $6,000, $5,000, $4,000, $3,000 and $2,000.

In addition to Atkinson and Horrego, the Florida Gold Coast will be well-represented.

Azura Florida Aquatics is sending eight swimmers. They are Steven Aimable, Senegal; Julimar Avila, Honduras; Nicole Frank, Uruguay; Yeziel Morales, Puerto Rico; Maria Fe Munoz, Peru; Kerry Ollivierre, Grenada; Joaquin Vargas, Peru; and Sidrell Williams, Jamaica.

American Heritage Plantation alum and two-time Olympian Dylan Carter will represent Trinidad and Tobago.

St. Andrew’s alum and Florida State swimmer Izaak Bastian will represent the Bahamas.

Gulliver Prep alum and University of Florida senior Miguel Cancel, who trains summers at SOFLO, will represent Puerto Rico.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

Patrick Groters Flag Bearer For Aruba; Uruguay’s Nicole Frank Top FGC Finisher On Opening Night At Junior Pan American Games

By Sharon Robb
CALI, Colombia, November 27, 2021–The Florida Gold Coast is well-represented at the inaugural Junior Pan American Games at Hernando Botero O’Byrne Swimming Pool.

On opening night Friday, Uruguay’s Nicole Frank, 17, who trains with Azura Florida Aquatics, finished fourth in the 100-meter breaststroke in a best time 1:10.34. She was fastest morning qualifier in a best time 1:10.20. Her previous best was 1:12.70.

Also in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke prelims, Uruguay’s Micaela Sierra of South Florida Heat and Azura was 11th in 1:14.73 and finished third in the consolation in a personal best 1:14.43.

Maria Munoz, 22, of Peru and Azura Florida Aquatics, was fourth fastest qualifier in the 200-meter butterfly in 2:18.65 and finished seventh in 2:20.17.

Azura’s Gabriela Araya, 22, of Chile was ninth fastest in the men’s 200-meter butterfly prelims in 2:05.13. He did not swim finals.

In morning prelims, Peru’s Joaquin Vargas, 19, of Azura Florida Aquatics was sixth fastest in the 400-meter freestyle in 4:02.55. He went on to finish sixth in 3:58.81.

Aruba national team member Patrick Groters was 13th in the 400-meter freestyle prelims in 4:11.07. On Saturday, he will swim the 200-meter backstroke. He is also entered in the 100 backstroke, 200 IM and 400 IM.

Groters, now at University of South Carolina, swam at NSU University School and Pine Crest Swim Club. He was chosen as one of Aruba’s flag bearers in the Opening Ceremonies. Patrick’s older brother Jordy Groters, is coaching Aruba’s swimmers. Jordy Groters also swam at NSU University School, Pine Crest Swim Club and Missouri and founded and now coaches Giants Aquatics Aruba.

Cali, the capital of Valle del Cauca, is hosting the first-ever edition of the Junior Pan American Games.

It is a key event in the lead-up to the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games and Paris 2024 Olympics, allowing up-and-coming athletes a new level of competition they didn’t have past years.

Approximately 3,000 volunteers, 1,400 technical officials and 1,142 other officials are participating along with 4,806 athletes from 41 countries and territories affiliated with Panam Sports in 39 sports. The meet is for ages up to 22.

Neither the U.S. or Canada, the region’s most successful countries, sent swim teams to the event although they are competing in other sports. Brazil (25), Colombia (25), and Mexico (26) have the largest delegations of swimmers.

The Games were initially scheduled to begin on June 5 but were postponed to September 9 to 19. It was further delayed because of COVID-19 before moving to late November and early December.

400-meter freestyle:

  1. Maria Paula Heitmann, Brazil 4:17.64, 2. Lucia Gauna, Argentina 4:19.14, 3. Delfina Dini, Argentina 4:19.24.

100-meter breaststroke:

  1. Martina Lucia Barbeito, Argentina 1:08.74, 2. Giulia Oliveira Carvalho, Brazil 1:10.24, 3. Bruna Monteiro Leme, Brazil 1:10.27.

200-meter butterfly:

  1. Karen Durango Restrepo, Colombia 2:13.51, 2. Rafaela Trevisan Raurich, Brazil 2:14.58, 3. Samantha Banos, Colombia 2:15.90.

400-meter freestyle relay: 1. Brazil 3:45.06, 2. Mexico 3:49.97, 3. Colo,bia 3:51.05.

400-meter freestyle:

  1. Santi Corredor, Colombia 3:53.14, 2. Eduardo de Moraes, Brazil 3:53.23, 3. Juan Manuel Morales Restrepo, Colombia 3:57.26.

100-meter breaststroke:

  1. Mariano Lazzerini, Chile 1:02.28, 2. Andres Puente Bustamante, Mexcico 1:02.29, 3. Bernhard Christianson, Panama 1:03.16.

200-meter butterfly:

  1. Matheus Gonche, Brazil 1:59.63, 2. Roberto Bonilla Flores, Guatemala 2:01.08, 3. Kayky Mota, Brazil 2:01.60.

400-meter freestyle relay:

  1. Brazil 3:17.14, 2. Mexico 3:24.02, 3. Colombia 3:24.40.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

Aussie Ariarne Titmus Knocks Off Katie Ledecky; Peaty, MacNeil, Dressel Win Gold

By Sharon Robb
TOKYO, Japan, July 25, 2021–In a thrilling showdown, Ariarne Titmus of Australia knocked off defending champion and world record holder Katie Ledecky Sunday at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

Swimming side-by-side in the 400-meter freestyle, the Tasmanian-born Titmus, 20, closed the gap to 2/10ths of a second at the 300-meter mark and pulled ahead in the final 50 meters to win in 3:56.69, an Oceanic women’s record and second fastest time in history.

Titmus, ranked No. 1 in the world, handed Ledecky, 24, her first individual Olympic loss. The American finished in 3:57.36, her second fastest career time. China’s Bingjie Li was third in an Asian record 4:01.88.

“I can’t believe it, I’m trying to contain my emotions,” Titmus said. “This past year I don’t know whether it’s gone fast or slow, but to get here was a relief. To come here and do the job, I’m over the moon.

“I thanked her, I wouldn’t be here without her. She set this incredible standard. I’ve been trying to chase her, it’s really exciting now we have this battle going. It’s really fun to race.

“I tried to stay as composed as I could. Then just tried to stick to my race plan. I can’t believe I pulled it off.”

The Ledecky-Titmus matchup was one of the most anticipated and talked-about Olympic races. Titmus had defeated Ledecky at the 2019 World Championships in South Korea in the 400 freestyle but Ledecky had a severe stomach virus. In June, Titmus had flirted with Ledecky’s world record of 3:56.46 when she went 3:56.90 at her country’s Olympic trials.

Titmus won the first individual gold medal for Australia since Stephanie Rice in 2008.

“I looked at the 300 and saw she was right there,” Ledecky said. “I knew it would be a fight to the finish. I can’t be disappointed. I did my best, I fought tooth and nail. She said she couldn’t have done it without me and I think she pushed me.”

Titmus’ coach Dean Boxall was emotional and animated after watching his swimmer touch first, running and gyrating in the stands.

It ended Ledecky’s quest to win the first of five possible gold medals. The two will meet again in the 200 and 800 freestyles and 4×200 freestyle relay.

In the men’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay final, anchor leg Zach Apple pulled away with a 46.6 split for a 9/10ths of a second lead to clinch the win for the U.S. in 3:08.97. Italy was second in 3:10.11 and Australia third in 3:10.22.

Floridian Caeleb Dressel led off in 47.2 followed by Blake Pieroni in 47.5 and Bowen Becker in 47.4 who led by 2/10ths after the third leg.

“We knew there was a huge target on our back,” said Dressel, a Clay High School, Bolles Club and Florida alum. “I’d say we dominated that pretty well. We’re never going to doubt ourselves, that’s not how the U.S. team works. We had a couple people rule us out in that event. We’re never going to take that so it feels nice to dominate and have it back on home soil.”

The U.S. men have won two of the last three Olympic 400 relays.

Local swimmers results:

Azura’s Celina Marquez of El Salvador, fifth in her heat of the 100-meter backstroke in 1:03.75.

Aruba’s Mikel Schreuders, an NSU University School/Pine Crest Club alum, second in his heat of the 200-meter freestyle in 1:49.43.

Azura’s Joaquin Vargas of Peru, third in his heat of the 200-meter freestyle in 1:49.93.

In other championship medal finals:

Women’s 100-meter butterfly:
Canadian Maggie MacNeil, in the outside lane, swam the second fastest time in history to win the gold medal in 55.59 ahead of China’s Yufei Zhang in 55.64 and Aussie Emma McKeon in 55.72. American 18-year-old Stanford-commit Torri Huske o f Arlington, Va. missed the podium by 1/100ths in 55.73. MacNeil, World and Pan Pac champion who swims at University of Michigan, is the first Canadian to win the gold medal in the event. Swimming without her contact lenses, it took her a while to focus on the scoreboard and realize she was listed first. World and Olympic record holder Sarah Sjoestroem of Sweden, who bounced back from a shattered elbow sustained slipping on ice, was seventh in 56.91.

Men’s 100-meter breaststroke: Defending champion, world record holder and heavy favorite Adam Peaty of Great Britain won back-to-back Olympic gold in 57.37 ahead of Arno Kamminga of the Netherlands in 58.00, the first medal in the event for his country and Nicolo Martinenghi of Italy in 58.33. American medal favorite Michael Andrew finished out of the medals placing fourth in 58.84.

100-meter butterfly: 1. Maggie MacNeil, CAN 55.59, 2. Yufei Zhang, CHINA 55.64, 3. Emma McKeon, AUS 55.72.

400-meter freestyle: 1. Ariarne Titmus, AUS 3:56.69, 2. Katie Ledecky, US 3:57.36, 3. Bingjie Li, CHINA 4:01.08.

100-meter breaststroke: 1. Adam Peaty, GBR 57.37, 2. Arno Kamminga, Netherlands 58.00, 3. Nicolo Martinenghi, ITA 58.33.

4×100-meter freestyle relay: 1. United States 3:08.97, 2. Italy 3:10.11, 3. Australia 3:10.22.

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