On Friday April 6 Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson won the Silver medal in the 50 metre breaststroke at the Optus Aquatic Centre in Gold Coast Australia in a time of 30.76. That Silver medal performance places her quite suitably as the best performer at the Commonwealth Games in swimming for the region as she now owns three medals.
That breaks the tie for medals won with legendary freestyle swimmer and countrywoman Olympian Janelle Atkinson, who won two Bronze medals at the 2002 Manchester Games. She also elevates swimming to a close third to boxing in terms of medals by Jamaica by the various sporting disciplines. Athletics leads easily with boxing on seven medals , the last of which was won in 1978. Jamaica now has six swimming medals in total. The first medal won was in the 220 yard breaststroke by W.A McCatty at the inaugural Hamilton Games in 1930 when the island only won two medals to include a Bronze medal in athletics. Netball is the only other sport to have won a medal for the nation at the Games in the last three decades.
Only three other nations have graced the medal podium in swimming Guyana, The Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago through the Silver medal winning efforts of William P Spence in in the 220 yard breaststroke at the 1938 Sydney Games , Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace in the 50 metre butterfly at the 2014 Glasgow Games and recently Dylan Carter in the same event when the region won back to back medals on April 6.
Atkinson has also distinguished herself by being the only Games record holder from the region with her 30.17 blast in the semi finals of the 50 metre breaststroke race in Glasgow.
Through her consistency and dedication to her craft she has rightfully deserved her place as the best of all time from the CARIFTA region at this quadrennial event.
At the start of the 2017 -2018 season The University of South Carolina’s Albury Higgs had a 200 yard breaststroke personal best of 2:11.49. Such was the improvement that has occurred throughout the season she brought down that personal standard to 2:08.90. Not only is she the top ranked CARIFTA region swimmer throughout the NCAA but also the first female swimmer to earn a second swim at the NCAA Division I championships in over six years.
The Bahamian sophomore added to her own swimming legacy competing in the 200 yard breaststroke on Saturday March 17 in Columbus Ohio during the morning heats.Albury split 1:01.59 on her way to 2:08.90. That swim bettered her 2:09.23 PR set the 2018 SEC Championships.With that performance she qualified for the B final. In that race would record the third fastest time of her career to place seventh in 2:09.45.
With her morning heats swim Albury became the first Gamecock to earn a second swim at one of the world’s toughest meets since 2014. She also moved to number three on the school’s list as top performers. Higgs has also closed the gap between herself and the CARIFTA region’s best time of 2:06.99 set at the 2009 NCAA Championships by CARIFTA legend Alia Atkinson
South Carolina Best All Time Performers
CARIFTA Region Best All Time Performers
The 100 yard breaststroke saw her placing 43rd in 1:01.27 (split time 28.67) ,just off her personal best of 1:01.02.The Gamecocks finished 20th with 46 points.
On Friday Breanna Roman recorded yet another personal breaststroke event when she stopped the clock in 59.50 (split time 27.79) in the heats of the 100 yard breaststroke.
That swim bettered her personal best and earned her a second swim in the event. It was also her first B final at the prestigious collegiate meet. The B final saw her recording yet another sub minute swim of 59.92(split time 28.12).
That preliminary swim pushed to her number two all time on the Auburn rankings and is the second fastest performance CARIFTA all time . Only CARIFTA legend Alia Atkinson and Micah Lawrence have posted faster times for the CARIFTA region and Auburn respectively.
This is a major improvement from 2017 where she placed 39th in a time of 1:00.95 (split time 28.79)
CARIFTA Region All Time Rankings
The 200 yard medley relay saw Tigers saw the team placing 18th in 1:37.50. Roman’s split for the breaststroke leg was 27.56. The 200 yard breaststroke saw her placing 46th in a time of 2:12.79 (split time 1:02.03).The Tigers finished 16th overall with 82.5 points.
Jamaica’s Michael Gunning continued to show that he is one of the next wave of Jamaican stars looking to impress in senior international waters at the Commonwealth Games, CAC Games and World Short Course Championships in 2018 with another series of record breaking performances over the weekend.
Competing at the Stockport Metro November Open Meet this past weekend contested over short course metres (25 metre pool) he took down the 400 metre freestyle record and crushed his 200 metre butterfly set a little over week ago . He has set those records in the midst of heavy training schedule which means when he is fully shaved, rested and tapered one can expect him to go much faster in both the 25 metre pool and 50 metre pool when called upon to represent the island in international competitions.
Gunning, who has represented Jamaica in at the 2017 World Championships and the 2017 World University Games placed 3rd in the 400 metre freestyle in a time of 3:53.08
Analysis of swim
That lowered the 3:54.26 by distance King Dominic Walter when he represented the McMaster University in a Silver medal winning performance at the 2016 Ontario University Athletics Championships. Gunning completed yet another national record double as he now owns both the short course and national records in the event.
400 metre freestyle
Michael only participated in the Saturday session of the three day meet as he revealed to draftingthecaribbean “I only swam as I’m so broken from training I did not want to run myself into the ground” which speaks to the intensity of his workouts at this time of the season.
Despite that he managed to crush his 200 metre butterfly national record of 2:05.12 with a Silver medal winning performance of 2:00.07. Michael was just edged for the Gold by Jacob Jackson of Ellesmere who recorded a time of 1:59.75.
Comparison of national record swims
Draftingthecaribean spoke to Michael and got his thoughts about his performances
“I’m absolutely tired from racing every weekend but it’s great to see all my hard work is paying off and I’m managing to transfer all my skills from training and see the benefits coming together when I race. I was overjoyed to see how much I had broken those new Jamaican Records by as I didn’t expect to be swimming too fast right now in this block of work. It’s great to see that the Jamaican Swimming History is getting stronger and I’m so honoured that I get to be a part of it. It’s truly heart-warming to see how much encouragement and support I’ve received over the past year I can’t wait to see what’s to come leading into next year, as it’s a really exciting time for both me and Jamaican swimming”.
The Stockport swimmer owns the national records in the 50 metre pool in the 200 metre butterfly and 200 metre freestyle at 1:59.83 and 1:50.00. He boasts a personal best of 55.10 in the 100 metre butterfly since donning the Jamaican national colours. Those times would give him the following placings at the last three Commonwealth Games.
200 metre freestyle
400 metre freestyle
100 metre butterfly
200 metre butterfly
Michael is a part of a Jamaica’s next generation of swimmers that includes and is not limited to names such as Nico Campbell, Justin Plaschka, Keanan Dols, Kelsie Campbell, Breanna Roman and Bryanna Renuart. Queen of the pack remains Alia Atkinson and she will seek to lead the Jamaican delegation for the third time. The country continues to improve in the quality and depth of swimming at the senior level. In 2006 the island sent 3 swimmers to the Melbourne Games, in 2010 3 went to Delhi India and in 2014 6 went to Glasgow Scotland.
Michael Gunning pressed his case for inclusion on the 2018 Commonwealth Games team when he lowered the national records in the 200 metre butterfly and 200 metre freestyle at the British University and College Sports Short Course Swimming Championships held from November 10 to 12.
The meet held in a 25 metre pool at the Ponds Forge in Sheffield saw the University of East London student qualifying for the 200 metre freestyle with a time of 1:50.71. The final would see him finishing 4th in a new personal best time of 1:48.28.
That swim, which is his best placing at the Championship, bettered the previous national record of 1:49.11 by distance king Dominic Walter. Dominic had set the previous mark at the Canadian Inter university Championships on February 26, 2016.
Analysis of national records swims by Gunning and Walters
With that championship final performance Gunning now owns the national records in the both the short course and long course (50 metre pool) .The long course record stands at 1:50.00 set at the 2017 World Championships in Budapest Hungary this past summer.
Michael would not be finished with his record breaking exploits as he lowered another Walter standard, this time in the 200 metre butterfly. He finished 11th in the event in a time of 2:05.12 (split time 59.28). His swim lowered the 2:05.55 Walter recorded on Feb 7, 2013 at the Ontario University Championships. With that swim he again achieved the national record double in both 25 metre and long course formats.
Michael’s long course metre record stands at 1:59.83 from the British Championships held on April 19 of this year.
He also competed in the 100 metre butterfly where he placed 21st in a time of 56.61 (split time 26.48)
When draftingthecaribbean spoke the Early Childhood Studies Major today he spoke about his record swims and his quest for Commonwealth Games qualification
“I’m over the moon to break those records last weekend!!I’m still in the middle of my hardest cycle yet and to break those records whilst feeling this tired and fatigued it makes me super excited to see what’s to come. My coach and I have sat down and we are trying to compete at lots of different competitions and race in different events whilst I’m tired as it’s all to get my body use to stepping up when it matters most no matter how tired I am, so when it comes to the Commonwealth Games next year when I am fresh and rested it will come natural to me”.
Michael is seeking to be a part of the 2018 Commonwealth Games Team. In 2014 Jamaica was represented by Six swimmers Three women and Three Men .That squad had Eight top 16 performances including medals a Silver and a Bronze won by Atkinson in the 50 and 100 metre breaststroke races. With Jamaican swimming improving since 2014 a team of the same size at least should be expected . The 2018 squad should see Commonwealth Games record holder Alia Atkinson in action in Melbourne . Other hopefuls for the team include
Halfway through the 2017 FINA/airweave Swimming World Cup Jamaica’s World Record in the 50 scm breaststroke Alia Atkinson seems well on her way to complete the tour undefeated in that event.
On Sunday October 1 Atkinson crushed the field by over a second to win the event in a time of 29.26. Second place went to Denmark’s Rikke Pedersen in 30.50 and the Bronze was won by Hong Kong’s Ip Rainbow in 32.50. The Gold medal winning performance marked her 4th consecutive win for the season and 16th straight on the tour. The last time Alia lost this race was Oct 29, 2015. On the 2016 tour Alia competed in 8 of the 9 stops and won all her races.
In 100 scm breaststroke her streak of victories now extends to five. Atkinson reigned supreme from the start with the quickest reaction and the fastest splits for both the first and second 50s.
Left in her wake by over a second was the Dane Pedersen in 1:05.09 and Canadian Kierra Smith won the Bronze in 1:05.65.
In the longest breaststroke race, the 200scm Atkinson won the Bronze in a time of 2:26.70 (1:09.89).
In the 200 scm individual medley she out split the field on the breaststroke leg with a time of 35.88 to move from 8th to 5th .
Alia would push to the wall to finish 4th in 2:12.34 her fastest time of the season.
Atkinson posted her 3rd fastest time of the season in the 100 scm medley when she finished 4th with a time of 59.57 (split time 28.17).
As this 2017 FINA/airweave Swimming World Cup continues Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson is getting faster and faster. On the first day of competition in Eindhoven she let the world know that the 100 scm breaststroke World record of 1:02.36 was in grave danger of being bettered. The same warning was issued in the 50 scm breaststroke.
In the morning preliminaries at the Pieter van den Hoogenband Swimming Stadium she eased into the Championship final with a time of 29.56. Her 50 scm split time of 29.32 in the 100 scm final yesterday was faster. Her swim was the only sub 30 second clocking as tour rival Lithuanian Rūta Meilutytė was more than half a second adrift in 30.13.
The only question would be not who would take Gold but how fast Alia would be in winning the event in the evening.
Rūta would have the slightest of lead when she had a reaction time of 0.61 to 0.62.That would be the only lead she would have over the Jamaican as Alia took over the proceedings. She would take the race in a sizzling time of 28.84, the only sub 29 seconds performance . For Atkinson ,who is sponsored by Rainforest Seafoods, GKMS and National Bakery it was the second fastest performance of her career. Only her World record swim of 28.64 in Tokyo last year was faster. It was also the third fastest time ever swum on the World Cup Circuit. The second all-time fastest performance on the circuit being the 28.80 recorded by American Jessica Hardy when she set the World Record in 2009. Atkinson’s win was also her 26th on the tour.
Rivals Rūta and Dane Rikke Møller Pedersen finished with the Silver and Bronze medals in times of 29.57 and 30.25 respectively.
Atkinson ended the day with her second best career performance in the 50 metre butterfly when she placed 8th in the Championship final with a time of 26.03.