Observer column for MON 12 Jan 2015by Jean Lowrie-Chin
|Alia Atkinson seen here being congratulated by GraceKennedy CEO Don Wehby on her arrival in Jamaica last Friday. - Jamaica Observer photo|
With little support at the beginning of her career, Alia made a lonely path up to the finals on the 2012 Olympics and wondered to herself if this was where she would stop, but said she decided to fight on because she did not want to go through life, wondering “what if?”
Alia’s response to those who murmured that swimming was not really a Black woman’s sport was to work even harder, because, she says, “I am very stubborn … I had to believe in myself…I knew what my goals were and to reach them, I had to try that much harder.”
She said the ones who had a negative attitude towards her were the very ones who motivated her to persevere. “I am a myth-buster,” she declared. “I am on top and I am a Black Jamaican swimmer!”
Alia reminded her audience that it was not luck that brought her a world record; it was very hard work. She shared this quotation from the Dalai Lama: “There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called Yesterday and the other is called Tomorrow. Today is the right day to Love, Believe, Do and mostly Live.”
“All we can count on is today,” said the passionate Jamaican. “We have to strive in each today, so that at the end of it, we can say ‘I did my best’.”
She expressed appreciation that GraceKennedy “joined her team” 11 months before her record performance, as her first corporate sponsor, helping her to realise her dream.
Alia explained that although her family members were involved mostly in athletics, her parents insisted that their children had to learn to swim, “because we are surrounded by water”. She said once she was introduced, “I became a water baby!”
She is hoping that the swimming fraternity will enjoy more support from the government and media to bring more resources and exposure to the sport. As I listened to Alia, it dawned on me that in this ‘land of wood and water’, many of our inner city children have never been to a beach. How many more ‘water babies’ are there, just waiting for the opportunity to be discovered?
Alia explained to us, that it was by taking “the road less travelled”, that she was able to make her mark, giving her country an early Christmas present on December 7. How sweet it was to read this report on the BBC website: “Alia Atkinson won Jamaica's first-ever gold at the World Short Course Championships, becoming the first black woman to win a world swimming title. The 25-year-old equalled Plymouth-based Lithuanian Olympic champion Ruta Meilutyte's 100m breaststroke world record of one minute and 2.36 seconds.”
To introduce Alia, a video of the Doha event was played, and we were on our feet as we saw Alia finish, check the clock, register shock at her achievement, and then absolute joy in the realization of her dream. My friend Dennis Jones uses Alia’s surprise photo as his Twitter avatar, such is the impression she has made on her fellow Jamaicans. To use each day to the fullest, to defy the myth-busters, we can, like Alia, surprise ourselves and bask in the joy of our hard-won achievements.