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Athletes

Alia
Atkinson
JamaicaJamaica, JAM
Swimming

Biography

Further Personal Information

Date of birth
11 December 1988
Height
172 cm
Family
Partner Leon
Residence
Hollywood, FL, USA
Occupation
Athlete
Languages
English
Higher education
Psychology - Texas A&M University: College Station, TX, USA

Sport Specific Information

When and where did you begin this sport?
She began swimming at age three.
Why this sport?
"About 75% of Jamaicans did not know how to swim [when I was young], so my parents wanted to be the ones to personally break that stereotype and just to make sure their children learned how to swim. So we all learned how to swim. I was the only one that kept on going afterwards. And it just turned into something to do after school."
Club / Team
South Florida Aquatics: United States
Name of coach
Gillian Millwood [national]; Chris Anderson [club], from 2001

General Interest

Nicknames
AliAtki (Facebook profile, 20 Oct 2018)
Hobbies
Writing short stories for children. (aliaatkinson.com, 24 Apr 2017)
Most influential person in career
Her late brother Adi and coach Chris Anderson. (fina.org, 20 Nov 2018; buzzzmagazine.com, 01 Jan 2015)
Hero / Idol
Dutch swimmer Enith Brigitha. (jessicacreighton.co.uk, 25 Jul 2016)
Injuries
In November 2017 she dislocated her left shoulder while competing at a World Cup event in Beijing, People's Republic of China. She was racing the individual medley at the time of the injury and it reportedly occurred when she was transitioning from backstroke to breaststroke. (jamaicaobserver.com, 19 Nov 2017)
Superstitions / Rituals / Beliefs
Out of the pool she wears a necklace that reminds her of her brother Adi, who died in a plane crash in 2009. (fina.org, 30 Oct 2018)
Sporting philosophy / motto
"Swimming is not only a sport, but a life necessity." (jamaicaobserver.com, 29 Nov 2017)
Awards and honours
In 2014, 2017 and 2018 she was named Jamaican Sportswoman of the Year by the RJR National Sports Foundation. (swimswam.com, 22 Jan 2019; rjrnewsonline.com, 19 Feb 2018; jamaicaobserver.com, 29 Nov 2017)

In October 2018 she received the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Commander for outstanding representation of Jamaica in the field of swimming. (swimswam.com, 16 Oct 2018)

She was Jamaica's flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, QLD, Australia. (gc2018.com, 04 Apr 2018)

She was named the 2014 and 2016 Female Central American and Caribbean Swimmer of the Year in Swimswam.com's Swammy Awards. (swimswam.com, 26 Dec 2016, 17 Dec 2014)

She was Jamaica's flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (jamaicans.com, 08 Aug 2016)

She has been inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, FL, United States of America. (jamaicans.com, 08 Aug 2016)
Milestones
In 2010 she became the first female Jamaican swimmer to compete in a final at the world championships, finishing in sixth place in the 50m breaststroke at that year's World Short Course Championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. She also became the first Jamaican swimmer to win a medal at the world championships when she claimed silver in the 50m breaststroke at the 2012 World Short Course Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. In 2014 she became the first Jamaican swimmer to win a gold medal at the world short course championships when she triumphed in the 100m breaststroke at the 2014 edition in Doha, Qatar. (SportsDeskOnline, 11 Dec 2018; bbc.co.uk, 07 Dec 2014; jamaica-gleaner.com, 14 Dec 2012, 19 Oct 2011; jis.gov.jm, 31 Jul 2011)
Famous relatives
Her father Tweedsmuir Atkinson competed in athletics [discus and javelin] at national school level in Jamaica. Her uncle Karl Smith competed in 400m hurdles at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. (jamaicaobserver.com, 24 Jan 2015)
Ambitions
To become the first Jamaican swimmer to win an Olympic medal. (12thman.com, 20 Nov 2018)
Other information
OTHER ACTIVITIES
She has run the Watabound initiative since 2017, a platform to promote swimmers of colour and developing countries. She also conducts the AAN Swim Clinic in between competitions in Jamaica. (rjrnewsonline.com, 03 Jul 2019; Watabound Instagram profile, 25 Jun 2019; stluciastar.com, 04 May 2019; Jamaica Gleaner, 11 Aug 2018; LinkedIn profile, 2018)

INSPIRATION
She considers her late brother Adi Atkinson as the person who drove her spirit to swim. "My older brother Adi was a very good breaststroker. He's the one I wanted to beat most of all. He stopped at 18 to pursue aviation, but he was always the one I looked up to, tried to emulate, tried to reach, tried to become, I guess. His passing was really a low point for me. The suddenness was what made it so difficult to deal with. He celebrated all my victories and never stopped being supportive." (fina.org, 20 Nov 2018; buzzzmagazine.com, 01 Jan 2015)

SWIMMING PREFERENCE
She began focusing on breaststroke at age 13. "I actually was a 'flyer and a freestyler but when I was 13, the breaststroke just clicked and I was like, 'Oh, I understand this stroke now.' And that was it. The most challenging part is that if one thing is off, it throws everything off. If your kick is off, then your head position is off, your arms are going too much, and now you look like a chicken popping up in the water. I can fake a freestyle and a 'fly; just attack the water and keep the tempo. But when you fake the breaststroke, you're actually doing more strokes and you're not getting anywhere. You have to be patient with it. You have to have the flow." (fina.org, 20 Nov 2018)

FROM JAMAICA TO THE UNITED STATES
Her family moved from Jamaica to Florida, United States of America, when she was age 12. She swam for Fort Lauderdale Swim team and Comet Swim team in Pembroke Pines where she first met coach Chris Anderson. She also swam for Flanagan High School in Florida which resulted in the award of a full swimming scholarship from the Texas A&M University. "It was a new experience and a new environment. I missed my friends [in Jamaica] especially those from school. However, I was also excited at the prospect of new opportunities." (fina.org, 20 Nov 2018; buzzzmagazine.com, 01 Jan 2015)