Birthday girl Alia kicks off World Swimming Champs campaign today

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

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JAMAICA'S champion swimmer Alia Atkinson will be hoping to double up on her birthday celebrations today by making the finals of the women's 50-metre breaststroke to get her campaign under way at the 14th FINA World Swimming Championships in Hangzhou, China.

Atkinson, who is celebrating her 30th birthday, will be aiming to defend her 100-metre breaststroke title while adding the 50-metre equivalent to her accolades at the championships, which actually got under way last night Jamaica time.

The outstanding swimmer will be joined by one of Jamaica's rising sensations, Sidrell Williams in making the country's ninth appearance at the six-day championships, which will be contested in a 25-metre, short-course pool.

Following another dazzling campaign on the World Cup circuit, Atkinson, who is competing in her fifth Short Course Worlds, will be chasing more breaststroke history, as she currently heads the world in both 50m and 100m events.

With a number of women's breaststroke top contenders not in competition in Hangzhou, Atkinson, who holds both world records of 28.56 and 1:02.36, is heavily favoured to maintain her dominance in both events. She will also be harbouring medal hopes for her other event, the 100-metre individual medley (IM), where she is currently seeded as the third-fastest entrant.

After claiming three consecutive silver medals in the 50m breaststroke in 2012, 2014 and 2016, the writing could now be on the wall for Atkinson's gold, as no other swimmer has come within six-tenths of a second to her top time so far this year.

With 2016 World champion Lily King as well as Russia's Yulia Efimova — who has been on Atkinson's tail all season — being absent from the event, another American, Molly Hannis is expected to be Atkinson's toughest rival despite the return of Lithuania's Ruta Meilutyte from injury.

The Jamaican “darling of the pool” will be hunting the three-peat in the 100m breaststroke after copping the top spot in 2014 and 2016.

Though co-world record-holder Meilutyte is expected to challenge her for the gold, Atkinson, who will be very much sharper for this having worked assiduously on her speed endurance, should stave off the competition.

Atkinson's best time of 1:02.74 makes her the only swimmer in the event who has achieved a sub-1:03-minute clocking this year.

Meanwhile, debutante Williams will become the 16th Jamaican swimmer to compete at the World Short Course championships, and will be seeking to make his mark in the 50m and 100m freestyle events.

Williams is no stranger to national representation, having sported the national colours at a high standard at the regional level in championships such as Carifta, Caribbean Island swimming Championships, and CCCAN Championships.

He was also a standard bearer at the 2013 Junior World Championships, the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, and the 2015 World Championships.

Chris Anderson and Brian James are the officials travelling with the pair.

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