New Date Announced For 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics, Athletes Now Have Target Date

By Sharon Robb

TOKYO, Japan, March 30, 2020—And now SOFLO’s Alia Atkinson, fellow Olympians and Olympic hopefuls from around the world have a target date.

The Summer Olympics and Paralympics have been rescheduled for nearly one year later with the date set for July 23-Aug. 8, 2021. The Paralympics were rescheduled for Aug. 24-Sept. 5.

The new Olympic dates would conflict with the scheduled world championships in track and swimming, but those events are now expected to also be pushed back. The IAAF World Track Championships are expected to be rescheduled for 2022. No word on the swimming event just yet.

The delay will cost at least $5.8 billion.

“The IOC has had close discussions with the relevant international federations,” organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto said. “I believe the international federations have accepted the games being held in the summer.

“It is fantastic news that we could find new dates so quickly for the Tokyo 2020 Games. The new dates provide certainty for the athletes, reassurance for the stakeholders and something to look forward to for the whole world.”

Tokyo organizers said Monday the Opening Ceremony will take place July 23, 2021, almost exactly one year after the Games were scheduled to start this year.

“The schedule for the Games is key to preparing for the Games,” Tokyo organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori said. “This will only accelerate our progress.”

Last week, the IOC and Japanese organizers postponed the Olympics until 2021 because of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Mori said a spring Olympics was considered but holding the games later gives more space to complete the many qualifying events that have been postponed by the virus outbreak.

Muto said the decision was made Monday and the IOC said it was supported by all the international sports federations and was based on three main considerations: to protect the health of athletes, to safeguard the interests of the athletes and Olympic sport, and the international sports calendar.

According to FINA, the sport’s international governing body, announced several guidelines on Monday:

*All athletes and teams who already had qualified for the Olympic Games will keep their status for the 2021 Games.

*FINA was informed all test events that were postponedare expected to be rescheduled in 2021.

*FINA will finalize the dates and program for the 2021 World Aquatic Championships in Fukuoka.

Atkinson, a four-time Jamaican Olympian and world short course record holder, along with her SOFLO coach Chris Anderson, will be making their fifth historic Olympic appearance for Jamaica. Atkinson is already qualified.

“I think for me it’s just getting back my mindset, not thinking about the short-term goals in five months, but thinking of it in a year,” Atkinson said. “Plus, trying to get back to the things that I was working on without thinking that time is running out. Now I have much more time.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at

2020 Summer Olympic Games Postponed, Moved To 2021

By Sharon Robb

TOKYO, Japan, March 24, 2020–South Florida Aquatic Club’s Alia Atkinson will have to wait a little longer to make a historic fifth Olympic appearance.

After weeks of speculation, it’s official: the 2020 Summer Olympics, originally scheduled to begin on July 24 in Tokyo, Japan and end Aug. 9, have been postponed to a later date because of the global coronavirus pandemic and will not take place until 2021.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, made what athletes, coaches and parents knew was inevitable official on Tuesday.

This is the first time the Olympic Games have been postponed although the major international event has been canceled three times because of war.

At 31, the four-time Jamaican Olympian was looking forward to competing in her fifth and probably final Olympics. SOFLO aquatics director and head coach Chris Anderson has coached Atkinson at all four Olympics.

“I do believe it was the best choice,” said the short course breaststroke world record holder. “A great majority of athletes across the board were on the same page. There is such a sense of relief.

“I don’t really have mixed emotions,” Atkinson said. “I think you have to consider everything. If every country competed there was a high probability of getting it. If one person has it, everyone in the Athletes’ Village is confined so that would increase the odds of getting it even more. And if the virus had died down in an athlete’s country and that athlete returned home with it, a whole second wave of the virus would start.”

Canadian Olympic swimming hopeful Bill Pisani already knew his country wasn’t going to the Summer Olympics, but it really hit home on Monday when he learned the Games were being postponed.

Pisani, 21, of West Palm Beach received an email from his swim federation on Sunday night that Canada was boycotting the Olympics because of COVID-19.

“For sure I have mixed emotions,” said Pisani, who grew up swimming in the Florida Gold Coast with the Lake Lytal Lightning and graduated from Florida State last year.

“The most emotion came when I was reading the email that it was postponed. I thought ‘oh wow this is the reality now.’ The more I think about it, it was absolutely the right decision.”

Pisani was pleased to see Canada join forces with Australia boycotting the Games and pressuring the International Olympic Committee to postpone the event until 2021.

“As the son of a Canadian who’s working in a hospital right now at the forefront of this invisible war and as an Olympic hopeful who has dedicated so much of his life to chase the Olympic dream, I am more proud than ever to be Canadian,” said Pisani, referring to his country’s boycott.

Pisani’s mom Lisa is a physical therapist. Recently, her hospital, Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, had its first confirmed case of COVID-19.

“I think there was more of a sigh of relief for all athletes around the world,” Pisani said. “There were just too many questions left unanswered. Hosting the Olympics would have put so many people in danger. It makes us as athletes feel more secure and safe.”

The Canadian Olympic Trials were scheduled for March 30-April 5 in Toronto. Pisani was a favorite to at least make a relay.

“Over the past two years, the Olympic dream had become so close to reality for me,” Pisani said. “It was getting exciting as time went on and this year the closer we got to our Olympic trials it was the most excited I have been about swimming. Everything has definitely changed.”

Sid Cassidy of Boca Raton, St. Andrew’s School aquatics director and longtime swim coach, is vice chairman of the FINA technical open water swimming committee. He has been working Olympic events since 2008.

“I think at this point the athletes had it right,” said Cassidy, who was set to serve as referee for the men’s and women’s 10K races.

“It is hard when you see athletics taking a back seat,” Cassidy said. “Of course, I am disappointed they are not going to do it this year, but it certainly seems to be the best decision.

“There is no easy way to redirect your life. A lot of the talk is to be stronger and learn from it but it doesn’t take away any of the pain. This is very different from the 1980 Olympic boycott, this involves the whole world. I am happy for the athletes knowing but not happy with the reality.”

The U.S. swimming trials were scheduled for June 21-28 in Omaha. The pandemic had already disrupted the training of every elite athlete and Olympic hopeful in the U.S.

The postponement and rescheduling to no later than the summer of 2021 will already add to a crowded 2021 schedule that features the 2021 FINA World Aquatic Championships in Fukuoka, July 16-Aug. 1. Track and field will also have a conflict with its Aug. 6-15, 2021 World Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore.

Florida State swim coach Neal Studd echoed Cassidy’s sentiments after watching his swim program’s NCAA season end early because of COVID-19. The men’s team was expected to finish in the Top 10 for the first time.

FSU had eight swimmers at World Championships and six at University Games. Studd was the 2012 St. Lucia Olympic coach and has coached several student-athletes on the international level.

“If anything this gives it some clarity,” Studd said. “Now we get to re-set and plan accordingly.

“There are bigger problems than sports right now. There is a big picture here and bigger place in the world. Obviously though I would rather be at NCAAs and Canadian trials.”

Mariusz Podkoscielny, two-time Olympian for Poland in 1988 and 1992, now head swim coach at Pine Crest School, said problems were already beginning to surface because of the lack of out-of-competition drug tests during the pandemic.

“There is the aspect that the Olympic competition would not be fair, that the way of preparation is not on a level playing field,” Podkoscielny said. “There are issues of people taking advantage of illegal supplements without conducting the out-of-competition drug testing. It would give athletes a green light to do it.”

Podkoscielny said the COVID-19 is bigger than any sports event including the Olympics.

“The majority of athletes are going to feel relieved,” Podkoscielny said. “These are not the circumstances to get ready for the Olympics or think about the Olympics. People’s lives are changing daily.

“If I were an athlete right now I would be heartbroken not going. There will be disappoitment but it is right thing to do. Everyone agrees with that.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at

Caeleb Dressel, Ryan Murphy Finish Pan Pacs With More Gold Medals

By Sharon Robb

TOKYO, Japan, August 12, 2018—Ryan Murphy won two more gold medals and Caeleb Dressel took gold and silver on the fourth day of the Pan Pacific Championships at Tatsumi International Swimming Center.

The Bolles Swim Club alums combined for a win for the U.S. on the men’s 4×100-meter medley relay team in the final race of the meet.

Murphy, Andrew Wilson, Dressel and Nathan Adrian won in 3:30.20, just 5/100ths of a second ahead of Japan.

Earlier in the day, Murphy ended up sweeping the backstroke events by sweeping the 200-meter backstroke in a meet record 1:53.57. His margin of victory was nearly two seconds ahead of Ryosuke Irie of Japan and U.S. teammate Austin Katz of Sarasota.

Dressel was second in the 50-meter freestyle in 21.93 behind U.S. teenager Michael Andrew in 21.46.

Murphy finished with three gold medals and Dressel finished with two golds, two silvers and a bronze.

The U.S. won six of the eight available gold medals and men’s 4×100-meter relay to finish on top of the medals table with 18 golds on the final day of the pool events. Australia was second with eight and Japan had six gold medals.

In other races:

Canadian teenager Taylor Ruck took silver in the 200-meter backstroke in 2:06.41 and finished with a historic fifth medal, breaking the record for most medals won by a Canadian at Pan Pacs. American Kathleen Baker won gold in the 200 backstroke in a meet record 2:06.14.

Katie Ledecky, 21, won her third gold medal of the meet running away with the 1,500-meter freestyle in 15:38.97, more than an 11-second margin of victory.

U.S. teammate Micah Lawrence Sumrall won the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:21.88 ahead of teammate and double Olympic champion Lilly King in 2:22.12.

American Zane Grothe won the 800-meter freestyle in a best time 7:43.74.

World record holder Ippei Watanabe of Japan won the 200-meter breaststroke in a meet record 2:07.75 just hours after American Josh Prenot had lowered the meet record in 2:08.02.

Aussie Cate Campbell broke her own meet record to win gold in the 50-meter freestyle in 23.81 lowering her own record of 23.96. Campbell later added a fifth gold medal in the 4×100-meter medley relay.

Australia won the women’s 400-meter medley relay in a meet record in 3:52.74 ahead of the U.S. in 3:53.21. Japan was third in a national record in 3:55.03.

The 10K open water races will end the Pan Pacs on Tuesday.

The meet featured the following federations: Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, People’s Republic of China, Cook Islands, Colombia, Ecuador, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, New Zealand, Oman, Palau, Peru, Philippines, Thailand and the U.S.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

Dressel Wins Gold, Breaks Phelps Meet Record On Day Three Of Pan Pacs; U.S. Relay Disqualified For Relay List Blunder

By Sharon Robb

TOKYO, Japan, August 11, 2018—Caeleb Dressel won his first gold medal in style on Day Three of the Pan Pacific Championships at the Tatsumi International Swimming Center.

The Bolles Club and Clay High School alum won the 100-meter butterfly and broke the meet record of Michael Phelps in 50.75. Phelps record was 50.86 set in 2010. U.S. teammate Jack Conger was second in 51.32. It was Dressel’s third medal of Pan Pacs. On Sunday, he will swim the 50-meter freestyle abd possibly the 400-meter medley relay.

Dressel would have won a second gold in the men’s 400-meter freestyle relay had they not been disqualified. Dressel, Blake Peroni, Zach Apple and Nathan Adrian set a meet record and won in a meet record 3:11.67 but was disqualified for swimming out of order. According to meet officials, the relay received the wrong relay order from coaches. The U.S. foursome got the news unfortunately after the medal ceremony. Brazil got bumped up to gold in 3:12.02.

Other than that embarrassing moment, it was a good day for the U.S. winning eight medals.

In other races:

Katie Ledecky won her second gold medal of the meet in the 400-meter freestyle in a meet record 3:58.30, breaking her previous record of 3:58.37. Ledecky was under world record pace until the final 100 meters. Aussie teenager Ariarne Titmus, 17, kept it close finishing second in 3:59.66, breaking the 4-minute barrier for the first time and becoming the third woman to ever break 4 minutes.

Chase Kalisz won gold in the 200-meter individual medley in 1:55.40. Aussie Mitch Larkin was second in 1:56.21.

Aussie teammates Jack McLoughlin and Mack Horton finished one-two in the 400-meter freestyle. American Zane Grothe was third in 3:45.37.

Australia, with Cate Campbell swimming a 51.36 anchor leg, won the women’s 400-meter freestye relay in 3:31.58. The U.S. took silver in 3:33.45

Japan’s Rikako Ikee won the 100-meter butterfly in 56.08 ahead of Kelsi Worrell Dahlia in 56.44.

Japan teammate Yui Ohashi won the women’s 200-meter individual medley in 2:08.16.

The meet runs through Aug. 14 and features the following federations: Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, People’s Republic of China, Cook Islands, Colombia, Ecuador, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, New Zealand, Oman, Palau, Peru, Philippines, Thailand and the U.S.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

SWIMMING NOTEBOOK: Canadian Taylor Ruck Knocks Off Katie Ledecky At Pan Pacs; Atkinson Honored In Jamaica

By Sharon Robb

TOKYO, Japan, August 9, 2018—Canadian teenager Taylor Ruck knocked off five-time Olympian champion Katie Ledecky on opening night of the Pan Pacific Championships at Tatsumi International Swimming Center.

Ruck, 18, won the 200-meter freestyle in a meet record 1:54.44 breaking Ledecky’s 2014 record by 1.3 seconds. Japan’s Rikako Ikee was second in 1:54.85 and Ledecky settled for third place in 1:55.15.

“I was nervous before the race,” Ruck told reporters. “It’s the name. She is the fastest woman on the planet in a lot of races. My coach saw I was nervous and told me to focus on my lane and my race.”

Ledecky lowered the meet record in the 200 prelims in 1:55.16 before Ruck broke it.

Earlier in the day, Ledecky won the 800-meter freestyle in 8:09.13, fifth fastest time in the world and fifth time she dipped under 8:10.

“I knew it was going to be tough,” Ledecky said. “It’s a tough double. I’ve done it a number of times but it’s always a difficult thing. I really put in a lot of work into not having that happen again. But I still have two more years to go until the Big Show here in Tokyo.”

In other races:

American Olympic champion Lilly King won the 100-meter breaststroke in 1:05.44. King has not lost this event since 2015.

Other U.S winners were Jordan Wilimovsky in the 1500-meter freestyle in 14:46.93; Townley Haas in the 200-meter freestyle in 1:45.56 and Chase Kalisz in the 400-meter individual medley in 4:07.95.

Japan had two champions. Yasuhiro Koseki won the men’s 100-meter breaststroke in 59.08 and Yui Ohashi won the women’s 400-meter individual medley in 4:33.77.

Austrailia’s only win was in the mixed medley relay in 3:38.91 ahead of Japan and U.S. with Kathleen Baker, Michael Andrew, Simone Manuel and Caeleb Dressel.

The meet runs through Aug. 14 and features the following federations: Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, People’s Republic of China, Cook Islands, Colombia, Ecuador, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, New Zealand, Oman, Palau, Peru, Philippines, Thailand and the U.S.


Four-time Olympian Alia Atkinson, 29, was among 171 Jamaicans honored recently with the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Commander. She joined Gracie Jones, Harry Belafonte and Winston Barnes among others. They were honored for their contributions and achievements on National Heroes Day. Atkinson was coming off the CAC Games where she won three gold and two bronze medals.

Sharon Robb can be reached at

Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson Breaks World Record

By Sharon Robb

October 26, 2016—After a disappointing finish at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Alia Atkinson of Jamaica broke a world short course record in the 50-meter breaststroke Wednesday at the FINA/Airweave World Cup Series in Tokyo.

Atkinson, 27, of South Florida Aquatic Club, who shares the 100-meter breaststroke short course world record with Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte broke the previous record of 28.80 held by American Jessica Hardy since 2009, in 28.64, shaving 16/100ths off the record. Atkinson is the first Jamaican swimmer to solely own a world record.

Atkinson is one of only three women swimmers who have cracked the 29-second barrier.

She topped a less than stellar field including Russian Yulia Efimova and American Molly Hannis and finished as the top female scorer in Tokyo.

Atkinson is coached by SOFLO’s Chris Anderson, who has coached her to four Olympic Games since she was a teenager at Flanagan High School.

Atkinson was a favorite to medal in Rio in the 100-meter breaststroke on the sport’s biggest world stage but faltered to eighth place in the final.

Atkinson earned a $10,000 bonus from FINA for breaking a world record along with 20 points toward her cluster bonus. She also picked up $35,000 for finishing second in the Cluster Two competition behind Hungarian Katinka Hosszu and now is fifth overall with $54,000 behind Hosszu, Jeanette Ottesen, Daryna Zevina and Efimova.

Sharon Robb can be reached at for results and questions.

SOFLO’s Alia Atkinson Settles For Silver On Day Two Of FINA/Airweave World Cup Series In Tokyo

By Sharon Robb

October 29, 2015—Alia Atkinson of the South Florida Aquatic Club returned to the medal podium on Day Two of the FINA/Airweave World Cup Series Thursday at Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Center.

The three-time Jamaican Olympian, after failing to make the 100-meter breaststroke final, placed second in the 50-meter breaststroke in 30.79. Atkinson was the top seed after morning prelims in 30.86.

American Molly Hannis, winner of the 100 breaststroke and second seed in the sprint event in 30.93, won in 30.63. Aussie Leiston Pickett was third in 30.88.

In the 50-meter butterfly, Atkinson tied for eighth in 27.55 with Japan age group swimmer Asuka Kobayashi. Atkinson chose not to swim the swim-off.

In other championship finals:

Japan’s Rikako Ikee and Miki Uchida finished one-two in the 100-meter freestyle in 54.14 and 54.24 respectively. Hungarian Katinka Hosszu was third in 54.39. Ikee and Uchida also went one-two in the 50-meter butterfly in 26.17, a new junior world record, and 26.23.

Japan swept the top three spots in the men’s 200-meter freestyle with top seed Yuuki Kobori winning in 1:47.59.

South African Cameron Van der Burgh continued to dominate the breaststroke events by winning the 100-meter breaststroke in 59.97. American Kevin Cordes was fourth in 1:01.35.

Aussie Christopher Wright won the 100-meter butterfly in 52.77. American Tom Shields was third in 52.83, just .01 out of second.

Emily Seebohm of Australia won the 100-meter backstroke in 58.37. It was her eighth consecutive World Cup win in the event and her second-fastest time this year. Hosszu was second in 1:00.01.

American David Plummer won the 50-meter backstroke in 24.58, third fastest time in the world this year. U.S. swimmer Michael Andrew was third in 25.30.

Japan world champion Natsumi Hoshi won the 200-meter butterfly in 2:08.13.

Japan’s Hiromasa Fujimori won the 200-meter individual medley in 1:59.76 to lead another top three sweep by Japan swimmers.

Hosszu picked up her first win of the day in the 400-meter freestyle in 4:08.87.

Japanese national record holder Katsumi Nakamura won the 50-meter freestyle in 22.15. American Anthony Ervin was third in 22.56.

Rie Kaneto of Japan won the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:23.01.

World champion Mitch Larkin of Australia won the 200-meter backstroke in 1:53.34, both a national and Commonwealth record.

Japan dominated the men’s 1500-meter freestyle with Ayatsugu Hirai winning in 15:16.39 followed by Syogo Takeda in 15:16.76 and Yousuke Miyamoto in 15:20.69.

Hosszu won her second gold medal of the day in the 400-meter individual medley in 4:37.26.

This is the third and final cluster that finishes in Doha and Dubai next week. The Doha event is No. 2-3 and Dubai is Nov. 6-7.

Pine Crest All-American swimmer Marta Ciesla will represent the U.S. in the final two meets in the Middle East. She is foregoing this week’s region and next week’s state meets to represent her country.

The full eight-leg World Cup is being held in long course leading up to the 2016 Rio Olympics to attract a larger entry of star swimmers.

The top three finishers in each event earn $1,500, $1,000 and $500. There is also a $10,000 payout for world records and cluster bonuses awarded from $50,000 to $5,000 among the top six.

The World Cup events are being live-streamed for free on FINATV.

Sharon Robb can be reached at