Jamaican swimming legend Alia Atkinson continued her preparation for the Tokyo Olympics with more medals at the Beijing leg of the 2020 FINA Champions Series.
In the 100 metre breaststroke on January 19 Alia ended her own “Silk Road” journey with Bronze with a time of 1:08.88.The swim earned her USD 6000.00. The effort also represents the fourth fastest time by the Olympian at this time of the season. The Gold stayed at home with local standout Olympian Yu Jingyao taking the win in 1:07.18. Italian Olympian Martina Carraro won the Silver in 1:07.25.
TEST AND ADJUST
The first day of the two day meet on January 18 saw Alia recording her fastest time ever in January of 30.44. This represented a significant time drop from the last leg in Shenzhen where she stopped the clock in 30.63. Commander Atkinson continues to sharpen her skills as she keeps her eyes on the target of a podium place at the Tokyo Olympics. She was out touched at the wall by a fast charging US Olympian Molly Hannis who registered a time of 30.34. Carraro took the Bronze in 30.79.
The Caribbean superstar is the only swimmer, male or female from the region to have won medals in the event in both the long course and short course World Championships. She has one Long course Silver from the 2015 Kazan Championships when she set the current national mark of 30.11. She also has four medals in the 25 metre pool .Three Silver (2012,2014 and 2016) .She won the Gold at the 2018 Championships in Hangzhou. She is also the World record holder for the 25 metre course with a time of 28.56. No other Caribbean swimmer has ever set a World Record in the 50 metre breaststroke event, Atkinson has done it twice.
Alia ended the series with prize money earnings of USD 26,000.
Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson will be leaving the Chinese city of Shenzhen USD 12000.00 richer. Earlier today she won yet another Bronze medal at the FINA Champions Series .This time it was in the 100 metre breaststroke in a time of 1:08.15.That earned her another USD 6000.00.
Italian Martina Carraro took the double as she won the event in a time of 1:06.85.Hometown swimmer Yu Jingyao took the Silver in 1:07.59.
Atkinson continues to prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics with her third fastest time ever done in January. In 2016 She had swum times of 1:07.38 and 1:07.47 at the Austin leg of the US based TYR Pro series.
Atkinson’s efforts today places her 13th in the global standings for the race.
The swimming icon will next be in action from Jan 18-19 in Beijing at the Ying Dong Swimming Natatorium , the site of swimming for the 2008 Olympic Games. She will again contest the 50 and 100 metre breaststroke events.
Olympian Alia Atkinson won Bronze earlier today at the Shenzhen leg of the FINA Champions Series. Competing in the 50 metre breaststroke Atkinson finished third in a time of 30.63 and won USD 6000. Gold went to Italian Olympian Martina Carraro in 30.38 earning herself USD 10,000. The Silver was won by the American Olympian Molly Hannis in 30.49, she netted for herself USD 8000.00. Those top three finishes represent the new Global top three swims for the season.
This is the fastest Atkinson has swum in January. Her previous best at this stage of the season was 32.73 in 2012. In that season she had her highest Olympic placing of fourth at the London Games. This 2019/2020 is one first for her and the region as she is the only female swimmer from the Caribbean invited to compete in this Series.
She was also the only female swimmer invited to compete on a team in the debut season of the International Swimming League for Team Iron.
The meet continues tomorrow with Alia competing in the 100 metre breaststroke. She will battle Carraro again as well as 2016 Olympian Canadian Sydney Pickrem and hometown talent Yu Jingyao.
Before 2019 came to close yet another CARIFTA region swimmer was re writing the pages of his school’s record book. That swimmer was Adriel Sanes of the University of Denver. Competing at the Princeton/Big Al Invitational .He took victories in the 100 and 200 yard breaststroke in NCAA B qualifying times.He also won all the relays he swam in. It would be the 200 freestyle where he would have his name in history as his greatest success.In the very first final of the meet that ran from December 6 to 8 saw the Pioneers A team of Cameron Auchinachie 19.17,Sid Farber 18.73,Jackson Gainer 20.07 and Sanes 19.43 beating the field by over a second to win in a time of 1:17.40. That was just off the school record of 1:17.22 and the NCAA A cut of 1:17.17.
With the team so close to the NCAA standard the night before the squad came together to go for that automatic invitation in Indiana in late March.They would not disappoint and would achieve their goal of stamping their ticket .They also set a new school record and put the Pioneers fourth in the country.
In the following event the 200 yard individual medley the junior continued his personal best progression. After lowering his personal standard from 1:48.30 in November to 1:47.95 in the morning he went even faster in the night’s final. He went 1:47.23 for a fifth place finish , not too far from the NCAA B time of 1:46.77.It also doubles as the second fastest in school history.With that swim Adriel is now the fastest swimmer ever from the US Virgin Islands of all time .He bettered the time of 1:47.35 set by 6’6 Olympian George Gleason (Sydney 2000, Athens 2004) in a dual meet against Harvard on February 3, 2001. Gleason, who was the Yale Captain that year would win the silver medal at the Ivy League conference Championships that year.
There would be another clear victory in the 400 yard medley relay as the Pioneers team of Neil Watchler backstroke 48.27,Cy Jager breaststroke 53.20,Sanes butterfly 47.35 and Auchinachie 42.16 got the better of the field with a winning time of 3:10.98 .They had a winning margin of 2 seconds plus.
The next day the Pioneers also took the shorter medley relay.In the 200 relay Auchinachie backstroke 21.10, Jager breaststroke 23.85,Sanes butterfly 21.01 and Farber 18.67 put together yet another clinical win . They won by over 3 seconds with a winning total effort of 1:24.63.
After batting for two years with a personal best of 54.00 in the 100 yard breaststroke ,the breakthrough came in the morning heats as he had splits of 25.35 and 28.18 to take half a second off his time to lead the preliminaries with a 53.50 effort. It was also under the NCAA Division I B cut of 54.27. In the final teammate Jager made him work for the win . Cy went out in a blazing 24.57 , the fourth fastest time in the NCAA division so far this season. Sanes was almost a half a second behind with his split of 25.05. Adriel split 28.52 and used all of his 6’3 frame to reel in his teammate for a narrow victory 53.57 to Jager’s 53.60. It would be no surprise of the speed of Cy as he is the son of the legendary sprinter US Olympic Gold medallist Tom Jager. Tom broke the world record six times in his career and holds the record for having the global mark for the second longest time period from March 24,1990 with his time of 21.81 to June 1,2000.The record was broken by another sprinting legend Russian Olympic Gold medallist Alexander Popov 21.64
The final day of the meet he put himself on course for the breaststroke double and yet another personal best with a morning time of 1:56.98.His personal best and school record entering the meet stood at 1:56.24.
He would not disappoint as in the final as he lead from gun to the final touch pad. He took the victory by over 2 seconds stopping the clock in 1:55.95.
Sanes capped the competition in the best possible way anchoring the A team to victory in a new school record and NCAA B time of 2:51.99
The team of Auchinachie 42.60 ,Farber 41.99,Hugo Sykes 43.48 and Sanes 43.92 won by over a second.
The Pioneer Men finished third in the male standings with 688.50 points.Second went to Brown with 743.5 points and Princeton topped the seven team rankings amassing 887.50 points.
Draftingthecaribbean got in touch with Adriel and he gave his thoughts on a very successful mid season meet
“Our first invite of the season and we were determined to qualify for NCAA. We felt ready as we’ve been training hard for this weekend.We swam Friday night 200 yard freestyle relay and got the NCAA B with a time of 1.17.40, but that was not enough for us.We decided on Saturday after prelims, to time trial as we knew what each of ushad to swim to get the NCAA A time and we did it.We were so excited and all the DU Parents gave us a lot of support by cheering loud to get us motivated.It was the best moment for the relay team.
After making this time, we were so motivated, that making the NCAA B time for 200 and 400 Medley Relay felt much easier and smooth. My 200 Breast was on the last night and want it to finish strong and have best time than what I previously had and I did make best times on both my 100 and 200 Breast.It was a really successful meet for me and my DU Teammates.Now we will train hard to be ready for Conference and then go to NCAA and our goal is to make top 3 in 200 free relay”.
Sanes is a part of the current wave of CARIFTA elite swimmers looking to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games .He will be working towards the 200 metre breaststroke as his main event .He will also look towards the 100 breaststroke to make the qualifying mark to Asia. He competed in the long course meet and swam 2:18.90 for the 200 breaststroke.That time represents his best in season time ever .It augurs well for him to get past his current national record of 2:16.90 set at this year’s PAN AM Games in Lima and go after the Olympic B time of 2:14.26.
Before 2019 became history Aruban Patrick Groters was making his own for Aruba and himself. Competing at the US Open in December Patrick lowered the national record in the 200 individual medley. He crushed the old standard of 2:03.33 set during the preliminaries of the 2019 Pan AM Games in Peru to take it down to 2:01.62 on Dec 5.He set that time during the morning heats of the meet bettering the 2020 Tokyo Olympic B standard of 2:03.26. That historic swim would earn him a second swim in the B final where he would again be much better than the B standard placing sixth in a time of 2:01.84.
The meet which was held at the McAuley Natatorium , home of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games sees Patrick as fourth on the all time rankings of the best from the CARIFTA region in the event.
George Bovell III
Trinidad and Tobago
Patrick is being guided on his road to Tokyo by his older brother Jordy. Draftingthecaribbean spoke to Jordy after the competition and got his thoughts about Patrick’s progression since the PAN American Games in August
“During the taper Patrick was definitely swimming very confidently and doing some pretty good times. Swimming the same race seemed very reasonable. During the race, however, the splits he did were faster than what we had trained for. The butterfly was right on what he needed to be. The 29.9 backstroke and 35.4 breaststroke were absolutely unreal. We had trained to for 30-mids in backstroke and 36 in breaststroke. The freestyle was the only let down of the race, being the only split that was slower than his race at Pan AMs by about half a second. We tried to improve that freestyle in Finals and it was even more obvious in that race how crucial a good closing leg is. Patrick swam in between Will Licon (2019 US PAN AM Games Gold medallist in the 200 IM) and Caeleb Dressel (2016 Olympic Gold medallist,2019 50 metre freestyle World Champion) in the B final and was ahead of Dressel and right behind Licon at the 150. Dressel’s monster freestyle leg almost won him the race, touching only 0.01 behind Licon. Patrick touched two seconds after them despite being “in the race” at the 150. To be fair, Patrick’s freestyle was a bit faster than the morning but he wasn’t under 30 seconds like he was at Pan AMs. Considering how much of the other splits he improved from Pan AMs, he could’ve been 29 low or maybe even 28 high. Had he done that then he could’ve even been 2:00“.
PAN AM Games
Jordy also spoke about the way forward
“Regardless of all these hypotheticals, I was beyond ecstatic with the result. Another giant time drop so close to the last one is a huge confidence booster and a great sign for the coming months. There’s still about 6 months to go before the Olympic qualification window is closed. Six months to work on the back-half and make sure he can race the likes of Dressel and Licon until the end! I believe six months is more than enough time to make another 200 IM improvement and even challenge the A standard. He’ll definitely be challenging the B standards in both Backstrokes, as well. Those events were a little off this meet but the mission was a success. We came here to get a B cut and he was well beneath it”.
The CARIFTA region has enjoyed success in this event. In 1984 Jamaican Andrew Phillips became the first person to make the Olympic final placing sixth in a then national record time of 2:05.60.
In 2008 in Beijing China Bradley Ally of Barbados was just .10 outside the Olympic Final with a semi-final effort of 1:59.53 finishing ninth overall. He had set the CARIFTA region’s fastest time ever with a swim of 1:58.57.
The crowning moment for this event was the Athens Bronze medal swim by Bovell in a time of 1:58.80.
The region is looking forward to seeing what the next few months will hold for Patrick as he looks to add to the Aruban and CARIFTA legacy at the Olympics.
At the 2019 US Open held in December Bahamian Laura Morley made a major move to Olympic qualification with a personal best and new national record and an Olympic B standard time in the 200 metre breaststroke .Laura bettered the Olympic B standard twice. She stopped the clock in a new all time Bahamian best first in the heats in 2:27.83 in the heats and then later in the Championship final swam to a time of 2:28.38 .The Olympic B standard is 2:29.89. .Laura has now set the senior national record in the event 11 times.
Draftingthecaribbean spoke to Morley after the competition about competing as a professional swimmer.The last meet of her collegiate career was the NCAA Division I championships in March 2019.Morley ended her college tenure ended as the fourth fastest performer in Indiana school history in the 200 yards breaststroke with a time of 2:08.16. The Big Ten Distinguished Scholar gave her thoughts on how life is different as a professional swimmer compared to college in terms of training and other areas.
“Thankfully Indiana Swimming allowed me to join the professional team after I graduated in May, so I still get to train with the collegiate team but now without school I have a lot more time to focus on recovery, nutrition and swimming as a whole. The transition has been made a lot easier than I expected and a lot of that is due to having the full support of my coaching staff, weight coaches and former teammates. Becoming a pro swimmer has been such an awesome experience because I can truly focus on my swimming goals and have learnt so much about myself since March”.
She also spoke smashing her 200 metre breaststroke national mark and getting the Olympic B cut, training and her preparations and expectations before the US Open.
“I was rested and shaved for US Open! I recently swam at the TYR Pro Series meet in Greensboro the weekend of November 9th and swam right on my best times. That was very reassuring and gave me a lot of confidence in my training all fall. We have been putting in a lot of hard training since I got back to Bloomington in September, so getting some rest at US Open was an opportunity for me to see where my hard training has taken me. I have been working towards getting the B cut in the 200 breaststroke but that was not the expectation heading into US Open. We wanted to take the great racing opportunity at US Open to give me some great racing practice against higher level competition than I was used to.”
Laura bettered the Olympic B standard twice .She crushed the national standard from the heats 2:27.83 compared to 2:30.24.Her first 50 was very aggressive compared to her last national record 33.88 to 35.27 and her third 50 as well 37.65 versus 38.65.
200 metre breaststroke
Pan Am Games
Laura gave her insight if the race strategy to attack those two 50’s specifically and if she was very confident in her training to take it out so fast?
“Yes, I was in a very competitive heat in the morning and knew that the girls next to me would throw down some good times, so I took that opportunity to go out and race them. I did take it out more aggressively than normal, but still very control so I could have some speed on the back half of the race. We have been working a lot on 200 pace long course so I had confidence in my training and race strategy”.
Laura is easily the number two all time in the event for the CARIFTA region. The A cut is 2:25.52 and Olympian Alia Atkinson tops the all-time CARIFTA ranking with her national record 2:25.48. The Nassau native is currently faster than the best CARIFTA time posted at the Olympics Atkinson’s then national record of 2:28.77 at the London 2012 Olympic Games .
She is also faster than the CCCAN best time at the Olympics of 2:28.10 by Adriana Marmolejo which was the then national record for Mexico.
Morley spoke about her next outing and if she had any specific times in mind?
“I am competing at the Knoxville TYR Pro Series meet in January but will be training through that meet and using as racing practice. I do not have any specific times in mind but just want to get more comfortable with my race strategy and racing in competitive heats. I am heading into another hard training block for a few months until I rest again sometime in the spring”.
In the 100 breast Morley was just off her best time of 1:10.44. She took us through that race and what adjustments she would need to make to go after the B cut of 1:09.08.
100 metre breaststroke
“This fall we have been focusing on the 200 more so than the 100, but using the 100 as good practice for the 200. I was pleased with my morning swim of the 100 as it was just off my best time, which gave me a lot of confidence going into the 200. I have been working on getting my strength and speed up for the 100, but it is still a work in progress! The B cut in the 100 is a great goal to keep in mind!”
On the third day of the Christmas Open Nathan Wright gave to Western Jamaica and himself a new national mark. Competing in the 9-10 50 metre freestyle on Saturday Dec 21 stroked his way to a new all-time Jamaica best of 29.18.He downed the old national mark of 29.27 set by Brady McPherson -Lewison at this meet in 2018. The youngster who represents the Sailfish Swim club also shattered the meet record of 32.04 by his teammate Benjamin Davis.Nathan is the only swimmer from the Western end of Jamaica to hold an individual national age group record.
THE ROAD TO THE NATIONAL RECORD
The 9-10 boys record stood for 28 years before falling in 2018.The mark was held by Tshaka Douglas who swam for the Y Speedos and dominated the 9-10 age group .
Nathan would also crush the 200 individual medley of 3:10.65 in a close battle with Zach Andre Johnson of the Y Speedos 2:55.42 to 2:55.47.
There would be a national record scare in the 50 metre breaststroke during the morning heats. This as Joseph Black of the Tornadoes swim club came close to taking down the nearly decade old senior national record of 29.38 set by Brad Hamilton.
Hamilton, who also represented Tornadoes set the mark at the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games . Black, who is a sophomore at Kenyon College blitzed the field to set a mark of 29.62. He is the first Jamaican to break the 30 seconds mark in the event for the seven years. Black who scratched the final is also leading the North Atlantic Conference for the Lords with his 50 yard breaststroke time of 25.58. That time also has Black as the third fastest swimmer in the event for Division III.
Another notable highlight was the record set by the Swimaz Aquatic club quartet of twins Raine and Brooke Hopkins,Safiya Officer and Britney Williams. They took almost 30 seconds off the old meet record to set a new standard of 9:21.13.
Zarek Wilson of the Blue Dolphins of Trinidad and Tobago set the meet record in the 200 metre butterfly in the heats with a time 2:17.26 before securing the Gold in the final with a time of 2:21.65. Wilson has never lost the race in Jamaica and has swum faster on each occasion he has visited the island.His record in Jamaica now stands at five from five. Wilson set the fastest 11-12 mark in the race ever done in Jamaica in 2018.