MONTEGO BAY, St James — FINA Short Course world record holder Alia Atkinson has lauded the assistance from her sponsors Rainforest Seafoods and the Amateur Swimming Association of Jamaica (ASAJ) in helping her reach to the top of word swimming.
At a luncheon held in her honour yesterday at the offices of Rainforest Seafoods in Freeport, Montego Bay, Atkinson, who won three medals at the recent FINA World Short Course Swimming Championships in Windsor, Canada, presented her sponsors with one of her medals from the World Cup held in Doha, Qatar. She told them she would not have been able to accomplish most of her targets this year without their help.
“Swimming was not that big here in Jamaica and I needed the finance, I needed the help,” she admitted. “Not only did it help me reach to meets that I could not reach before, but it made me feel somewhat like I was on the same level playing field as the rest of the world.”
Atkinson, who suffered a major disappointment after finishing last in her pet event, the 100m breastroke at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August, said the swimmers from other countries got everything they needed to enhance their performances. “The silliest things that you can even think of,” she said, before noting that even the arrangements by the world governing body for swimming favoured those from the more developed countries.
“At the last World Championships, there were six different hotels and all the countries that were expected to medal were in the best hotels, and the others were in the rickety ones around the corner. Everything, from the food and the environment, was a step down.”
It was the support from her sponsors and the ASAJ, she said, that made the difference for her. “If it was not for the support from Rainforest and from Jamaica swimming and Jamaica itself, I would not be able to bring myself up to that level and know that I could do well,” she said.
“It’s not just about you giving someone money…it’s hard to say, but it embodies who I am and it keeps me fighting.”
This season has seen ups and downs, she said, from the Olympics let down to breaking a World Short Course 100m breaststroke record and finish the season strongly. But she said she will fight on.
“There have been ups and down; life is a fight and we can’t give up because life throws you a curveball when you are expecting a straight one,” she said. “I want to build up swimming for people of colour, and for Jamaica; I want to build up children’s characters and teach them that they must try to excel and not just to give up.”
Roger Lyn, marketing manager for Rainforest Seafoods, called Atkinson a “true ambassador, the type of person we want to align our brand with, not just being an athlete, but the example that you set”.
In his welcome he said the alignment between the swimmer and the brand was perfect. “We are seafood and all about the ocean, so we are happy to make the partnership happen this year.”
Ernest Grant, general manager of Rainforest Seafoods, said Atkinson had raised the profile of the sport. “You are now a household name and have inspired many others,” he said, as he reminded Jamaicans that athletes are not just those who run and jump.