“Me?!?!” The surprised expression and the celebratory jumping up and down in the pool was what you could feel through the television as Jamaican swimmer, Alia Atkinson, realized she had just done something enormously great! On December 6, 2014 Atkinson made history by becoming the first black woman to win a world swimming title in the women’s 100 breaststroke at the FINA World Swimming Championships in Doha, Qatar, making her short course race in 1 minute and 2.36 seconds. To make her victory even more exciting, Atkinson tied with the world’s record of the women’s 100 breaststroke as well!
When you saw the race, you could feel the tension and the heat coming from the swimmers as they tried their best to make their way to the finish line. However, all eyes were on Atkinson and her side-by-side opponent, Lithuanian swimmer Ruta Meilutyte, as they were very close during the entire race. It seemed like it was slow motion when you saw Atkinson reach the poolside wall with reaching”a smidge” first place. Meilutyte reached the wall at 1 minute and 2.46 seconds. During this meet, Meilutyte was the first woman to ever defend the women’s 100 breaststroke event and Atkinson beat her record by .1 second!
When the race was done, we all saw the score board that Atkinson won…except for Atkinson. She looked calm and completely unaware of her victory. Then she finally looked up at the score board and saw that Alia Atkinson was in the first place position for the winner of the 100 breaststroke and the time tied for the World’s record. That’s when the enormous amount of excitement and enthusiasm overcame her as she jumped up and down in the pool.
Atkinson is a stepping stone to plant the footprint of Black people in continuing to make history. You may have heard jokes and comments that, “black people don’t do water,” and “black people can’t swim,” or even “I’m not swimming…I just got my hair done.” But this goes to shows that’s exactly what they are jokes and comments. Atkinson proved us all wrong!
Atkinson commented, “Hopefully my face will come out, there will be more popularity especially in Jamaica and the Caribbean and we’ll see more of a rise and hopefully in the future we will see a push.” Personally, I hope this brings more of a positive push in the Black community to know that we can be who we what to be and strive for our goals in life. Atkinson is a stepping stone. Let’s join her with our own footprints in making positive Black history.