Atkinson looks to conquer old stomping ground

Saturday, July 21, 2018

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BARRANQUILLA, Colombi (media house) — Alia Atkinson is back on familiar territory, looking to make the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games, yet again, a springboard for world-conquering performances.

In 2006 it was in this said South American country that the Jamaican swimmer, only 17 years at the time and fresh from her debut Olympic showing two years earlier in Athens, blew away all before her to win five gold medals at the CAC Games in Cartagena.

Back on her old stomping ground, the multiple World Record and World Championship medal winner is not taking anything for granted, choosing instead to adapt a more pragmatic approach to competition that targets goals as opposed to expectations.

“I was told by a friend a long while ago to stop having expectations, because expectations will lead to disappointments because you don't reach it. Expectations are more of things that you cannot control and it's basically somebody else in control of that,” Atkinson, now a lot more mature and accomplished at 29, reasoned.

“You can't say 'okay, I'm going to win six golds'. There's like seven other people in the final with you and they all have the same goal. So I have goals, [but] not necessarily expectations, because I'm not expecting to win.”

To add clarity, Atkinson continued: “I have a goal to win, I've the times and the practice that I want to do in order to win it. I know the times that will win it, I just have to do that time. [With] expecting so many things could happen there's so many different factors.

“I have a goal in which I can control; good starts, good finishes, work on my pace, be able to come back in my pace and if all that goes well then it will be a good enough time to medal. That's my goal,” said the joint captain of the CAC Jamaica women's team and captain of the swim team.

In sport, there's a common cliché that goes: 'You're only as good as your last performance.'

In like fashion, Atkinson, practically, is using her performances at the Gold Coast in Australia barely a month ago to influence her forward movement, which was due to begin with competition in the women's 100-metre breaststroke yesterday morning at the Aquatics Centre here, extending to the World Championships at year's end.

A big part of that thrust for success is intensifying a steely fortitude to complement her unquestionable talent, and training.

“My major performance this year was Commonwealth Games, and it definitely enhanced my mentality because I realised where I am and where I need to get, where I need to be and what I need to do to get back to it, because Commonwealth was a bit rocky,” analysed Atkinson. “So the training and everything else need to be changed. I needed to fine-tune that and this is the opportunity that I get to see where I'm at before Worlds in December.”

Of course, she will be looking to expand a nine-medal CAC gold tally, having secured the other four closer to home in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. Similar to the golden memories are the details, even the little ones, which can make such a big difference in competition.

“Especially for swimming you want to do the fine-tuning things. You want to make sure the dives, the reaction starts off the blocks and the finishes are all good. In addition to that you've to remember the underwater, the little things that you practice, and if you do it enough it becomes involuntary,” reinforced Atkinson.

“Those are the things that you've to keep on remembering each and every day, and hopefully when you reach that meet it's just automatic,” reinforced Atkinson. “Those are the things that no matter how much work you put into it, if those are wrong then something will be off with your race and that will stop you from getting a perfect race — because it's not necessarily the time, but the way you're swimming could be a perfect race regardless of the time; so just getting those little key things done.”

For the well-decorated Atkinson, these things are second nature and have already brought her eight World Championship medals inclusive of two gold, four silver and two bronze; three Commonwealth medals; and two at Pan Am.

Of course, there is that vital part of the race, the finishing line, where Atkinson explains just about everything needs to be perfect.

“Especially with breaststroke and fly, it's a two-hand touch, unlike backstroke and freestyle where it's one hand. The two-hand touches are 50-50 because if you take another stroke it means you're taking another touch and not lunging to the wall. However, if you decide to lunge to the wall you might mess up with the distance and you just end up gliding to the wall,” she advised.

“So it depends on the swimmer and how much energy you have going into the wall, and it depends on your opponent — but you don't want to be watching your opponent either. So there are different factors that you've to think about when it's happening, but one thing you have to make sure is that whatever you decide ,that's what you decide… and you only have a split second to decide before you touch the wall.”

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