Alia Atkinson joins choir welcoming Olympic Games postponement

Observer staff reporter

Monday, March 30, 2020

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Jamaica's champion swimmer Alia Atkinson has joined other Olympians in supporting the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games until 2021 amidst the widespread outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Atkinson, a four-time Olympian, believes the decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the Games levels the playing field for athletes, many of whom have not been able to execute their normal training regime due to the chaotic situation caused by the pandemic, which is wreaking havoc around the globe.

After being heavily scrutinised by numerous athletes and sporting associations, the IOC last week announced the Games would be postponed until no later than summer 2021, but would still be recognised as the 2020 Olympic Games.

“My initial reaction was if it happened then it was meant to be kind of in the response of so many things happening in life and you don't know why. So for me to go out and question why it is being postponed would be selfish.

“Because so many people are suffering, so many people are dying; so many people are burying loved ones or can't even do so because of the virus or quarantine. So, it is really sad just the fact of how big this got and where we are at right now,” Atkinson reasoned.

“I think waiting and postponing the Olympics is definitely the right choice and wherever we start back, I believe everybody will be on the same playing field or at least a much fairer one than it is now,” the South Florida Aquatic Club representative added.

Atkinson, 31, who was looking forward to competing in her fifth and possibly final Olympics, viewed the additional time to prepare as a major positive and as such is eager to get back into full preparations when the COVID-19 pandemic ceases.

The short course breaststroke world record holder made her debut at the major international multi-sport event in Athens 2004 at the age of 15. Since then, she has never missed a beat, appearing at the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Games in Beijing, London, and Rio de Janeiro, respectively.

Her best performance at the Games to date was in 2012 where her impressive swim from the outside lane saw her just missing the medal podium with a fourth-place finish.

However, Atkinson has proven over the past few years that like good wine, she is getting better with age which is evident by her numerous top performances on the short course World Championships and World Cup circuits, as well as the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games, to name a few.

Though welcoming the postponement with relief, Atkinson is optimistic about getting in the right frame of mind to secure that elusive Olympic medal come next year.

“I think for me it's just getting back my headset, not thinking about the short-term goals in five months, but thinking of it in a year, 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.

“So I think in that aspect, mentally, it is a bit easier for me. I don't have to feel rushed or pressured if I am not swimming where I think I should be; if I am not performing where I think I should be and I think that is always good for an athlete,” Atkinson, dubbed Jamaica's “Darling of the Pool”, beamed.

She continued: “Especially around the world where so much people are stressed out right now, not being able to swim, not being able to do the work that they need to do in an Olympic year much less before their Olympic trials.

“I think right now we are in a good spot because now we can sit back and relax and think about things that we need to do, personally and mentally for our families, for our communities and humanity can start to heal and I think we needed that break.

“So as of right now my reaction is what it is; we will start anew when we learn about the date and everybody will just have to change their calendars and try again.”

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