Jamaican swimmer Alia Atkinson becomes first black woman to win world title
Alia Atkinson made swimming history on Saturday by becoming the first black woman to win a world swimming title: the women’s 100 breaststroke at the world short-course championships in Doha, Qatar.
The Jamaican 100m breaststroke swimmer has double cause to celebrate after her record-breaking win at the Fina World Swimming championships.
Atkinson completed the race in 1 minute and 2.36 seconds at the Fina World Swimming championships in Doha at the weekend, equalling the record set by Lithuanian swimmer Rūta Meilutytė. Atkinson is the first ever black woman to win a world swimming title.
Atkinson, who mostly trains in Florida, where she also works with the International Swimming Hall of Fame to promote swimming to youngsters from different communities, looked overwhelmed by her win on Saturday.
Atkinson, who swims for Jamaica, tied the world record with a time of 1 minute, 2.36 seconds, which, according to the standards of the international swimming governing body FINA, counts as its own record. Even Atkinson was surprised at her win.
The win was also Jamaica’s first gold in world swimming championships.
Atkinson hopes her win will inspire other women in the Caribbean to take up swimming as a sport.
“Hopefully my face will come out, there will be more popularity, especially in Jamaica and the Caribbean, and we’ll see more of a rise, and hopefully in the future we will see a push,” she said, The Telegraph reported.
According to a 2010 survey by USA Swimming, 69% of African American children have low or no swimming ability. The stereotype of black people refusing to learn how to swim is a stubborn one to shake, but with Atkinson’s win – and others such as Justin Lynch (an 18-year-old California swimmer who broke Michael Phelps’s 2001 national age-group record last year) – perhaps it is being eroded.