ATKINSON Alia < Back  
Sport Swimming
CGA Jamaica   
Gender Women
Born 11 Dec 1988 in Saint Andrew, JAM
Height1.72 m
Human Interest
Further Personal Information
Residence United States
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. "My first competition was at the age of four and I started representing Jamaica at the age of 12."
Further Personal Information
Languages English
General Interest
Sporting philosophy / motto "Swimming is not only a sport, but a life necessity." (, 29 Nov 2017)
Other information RETIREMENT
In December 2021 she announced her retirement from competitive swimming. "I am happy to say I finished every ounce of swimming talent God gave me, the bottle [is] empty. Many times I wanted to quit or give up, but I saw it through to the end." (, 11 Jan 2022; Instagram profile, 20 Dec 2021)

She made her fifth Olympic appearance at the 2020 Games in Tokyo, competing in the 100m breaststroke. Her best result at the Olympic Games was a fourth-place finish in the 100m breaststroke in 2012 in London. "My five-time Olympic journey ends here, but the Olympic medal is still waiting for some Jamaican girl or boy to claim it. It's not where I would like to finish my last Olympics, but I have to look at the long run perseverance through it. I'm missing a lot of things growing up. It's different when I was the young one. I must admit that I'm glad I fought through 20-something years. I wouldn't trade this journey for anything." (SportsMax TV YouTube channel, 27 Jul 2021; Jamaica Gleaner YouTube channel, 26 Jul 2021;, 26 Jul 2021; Instagram profile, 25 Jul 2021)

She began focusing on breaststroke at age 13. "I actually was a butterflyer and a freestyler but when I was 13, the breaststroke just clicked and I thought, '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." (, 20 Nov 2018)

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." (, 20 Nov 2018;, 01 Jan 2015)

She has run the Watabound initiative since 2017, which is a platform to promote swimming in developing countries. She also conducts swim clinics in Jamaica. (, 03 Jul 2019; Watabound Instagram profile, 25 Jun 2019;, 04 May 2019; Jamaica Gleaner, 11 Aug 2018; LinkedIn profile, 2018)
Nicknames AliAtki (Facebook profile, 05 Jan 2021)
Awards and honours In November 2021 she was conferred with an honorary doctor of law degree from the University of the West Indies in Jamaica in recognition of her sporting achievements. (, 04 Nov 2021; Instagram profile, 04 Nov 2021)

In 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, and 2020 she was named Female Central American and Caribbean Swimmer of the Year in's Swammy Awards. (, 15 Dec 2020, 17 Dec 2014, 26 Dec 2016, 22 Dec 2019)

She was inducted into the Texas A&M Lettermen's Association's Hall of Fame Class of 2019. (, 23 Jul 2019)

In 2014, 2017, and 2018 she was named Jamaican Sportswoman of the Year by the RJR National Sports Foundation. (, 22 Jan 2019;, 19 Feb 2018;, 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. (, 16 Oct 2018)

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

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

She has been inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, FL, United States of America. (, 08 Aug 2016)
Sport Specific Information
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."
General Interest
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. (, 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. (, 30 Oct 2018)
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 took 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;, 07 Dec 2014;, 14 Dec 2012, 19 Oct 2011;, 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 the 400m hurdles at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. (, 24 Jan 2015)
Most influential person in career Her late brother Adi, and coach Chris Anderson. (, 20 Nov 2018;, 01 Jan 2015)
Hero / Idol Dutch swimmer Enith Brigitha. (, 25 Jul 2016)