By Sharon Robb
BUDAPEST, Hungary, June 30, 2022—Five-time Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson was elected the first-ever chair of FINA’s Athletes’ Committee at the 19th FINA World Aquatics Championships.
The former longtime South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer was among 20 athletes elected by their peers from their aquatic sport with six athletes later appointed and six others named honorary members by FINA, the international swimming federation. The sports represented are synchronized swimming, diving, high diving, open water swimming, swimming and water polo.
Atkinson, a four-time gold medalist at the World Swimming Championships (25-meters), will serve a four-year term. Voting took place by electronic ballots throughout the championships. Atkinson, 33, and six others ran unopposed.
“Today marks another significant step forward for both FINA and all aquatics athletes,” Atkinson said. “The Athletes’ Committee will act as a critical link between athletes and FINA.
“Having the athlete community choose those who represent them in important decisions is critical for the future development of our beloved sport.”
Atkinson’s final competitive meet was the 2021 15th FINA Short Course World Championships in Abu Dhabi.
British diver Jack Laugher, a three-time Olympic medalist, was named vice-chair of the committee.
The elected contingent includes nine other swimmers: former Plantation American Heritage swimmer Dylan Carter of Trinidad & Tobago; Therese Alshammar of Sweden, Ireland’s Shane Ryan, Hong Kong’s Siobhán Haughey, Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan, Australia’s Jessica Hansen, Papua New Guinea’s Ryan Pini, Uganda’s Jamila Nsibambi Lunkuse and Matthew Sates of South Africa.
The second diving representative elected was Maria Polyakova of Russia, a former European champion in the women’s 1-meter springboard.
Synchronized swimming is represented by Egypt’s Nehal Saafan and Bill May of the U.S. Brazil’s Ana Marcela Cunha, who used to train in Davie, and the Netherlands’ Ferry Weertman will represent open water swimming.
Anna Bader of Germany and Alain Kohl of Luxembourg were elected to represent high diving, along with water polo players Margarita Plevritou of Greece and Felipe Perrone Rocha of Spain.
“Athletes are the heartbeat of aquatics,” said FINA President Husain Al-Musallam. “There is no sport without athletes. This is why I am so proud to be part of these historic elections.
“With equal gender representation and athletes from all six continents across all disciplines, I have no doubt that those elected will strengthen and promote the athletes’ voice for the benefit of the entire aquatics community.”
Britain’s three-time Olympic and eight-time World Championship swimming gold medalist Adam Peaty was among the six current athletes appointed by Al-Musallam to join the Athletes’ Committee. Hungary’s Dániel Gyurta and Italy’s Federica Pellegrini are also set to serve on the panel as elected members of the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission.
The Athletes’ Committee is responsible for offering input into the organization of the World Championships and the development of technical rules, and is designed to serve as the “athletes’ voice in aquatics sport”.
This is Musallam’s first World Championships as President, which was marked by FINA’s decision to require transgender athletes to have completed transition by the age of 12 to be eligible for women’s events.
OPEN WATER SWIMMING: Florida’s Anna Auld Seventh In 25K
Brazilian Ana Cunha, who once trained in Davie, won a close race in the women’s 25K at the 19th FINA World Championships in 5:24:15.0. She was followed by Lea Boy of Germany, 5:24:15.2 and Sharon van Rouwendaal of the Netherlands, 5:24:15.3. University of Florida’s Anna Auld of West Palm Beach, representing the U.S., was seventh in 5:26:25 among a field of 15 swimmers.
Italy’s Dario Verani won the men’s 25K title in 5:02:21 followed by Axel Raymond of France, 5:02:22 and Hungary’s Peter Galicz, 5:02:35. Azura’s Maximiliano Paccot of Uruguay was unable to finish after swimming for 1:34:08 among a field of 25 swimmers.
In the men’s 10K, Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy’s won in 1:50:56 followed by teammate Domencio Acerenza, 1:50:58 and Germany’s Florian Wellbrock, 1:51:11. Azura’s Jahir Lopez of Ecuador was 46th in 2:03:23 and Maximiliano Paccot of Uruguay was 48th in 2:05:01.
In the women’s 10K, Sharon van Rouwendaal of the Netherlands won in 2:02:29.2 followed by Leonie Beck of Germany, 2:02:29.7 and Cunha, 2:02:30. American Katie Grimes was fifth in 2:02:37.
In the men’s 5K, Germany’s Florian Wellbrock won in 52:48 followed by Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri, 52:52 and Mykhailo Romanchuk of Ukraine, 53:13. Azura’s Maximiliano Paccot of Uruguay was 41st in 59:43.
In the women’s 5K, Cunha also won in 57:52 followed by Aurelie Muller of France in 57:53 and Italy’s Giulia Gabbreilleschi in 57:54. University of Florida’s Anna Auld of West Palm Beach was 20th in 1:00:57. Azura’s Fatima Portillo, 19, of El Salvador was 37th in 1:04:56.
In the opening event, the 6K mixed relay, Germany (1:04:40), Hungary (1:04:43.0) and Italy (1:04:43.0) were the top three finishers. The U.S. finished seventh in 1:05:50. Twenty-three nations competed.
The historic inaugural Caribbean Games are underway in Guadeloupe. More than 800 athletes from 29 countries began competing on Thursday. Seven sports over five days are being held. The event is being televised on Panam Sports Channel.
Panam Sports President Neven Ilic watched with sport leaders throughout the continent and wished the athletes nothing but success during the Games.
“It’s nice to see the joy of the athletes parading. They are the future of our sport and our work must focus largely on them, on the new generations. We started with the Cali 2021 Junior Pan American Games, then came the Rosario 2022 Youth South American Games and now the Caribbean has its own celebration of U-23 sport. I congratulate CANOC and Guadalupe for this fantastic and historic party and wish much success to the enthusiastic athletes.”
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org