Meet the first Black woman to win a World Title in swimming
Reported by Kacie Whaley
Alia Atkinson won gold at the 12th FINA World Swimming Championships Saturday after competing in the Women’s 100m Breaststroke Final in Doha, Qatar, according to reports. She has made history as the first Black woman to secure a world swimming title.
During the fourth day of the championships, Atkinson, 25, was head-to-head with swimming favorite Ruta Meilutyye, the 17-year-old Lithuanian athlete who holds the record for the 50 and 100-meter breaststroke. But after finishing just 0.1 second before her rival, Atkinson, to her own surprise, seized the gold title.
“I realized I was catching up so I was just trying to get a good finish,” she told FINA. “I’m not used to seeing my name up in number one so it was kind of a shock, but a good one!”
Atkinson, who is from Jamaica, is also now the first person from the island to win a gold medal in the championship.
“Hopefully 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,” BBC reported her as stating.
Atkinson has been improved her swimming skills year after year. She competed in the 2004 Olympics and again in 2008 when she came in 25th place during the Women’s 200 breaststrokes. In 2010, she represented Texas A&M at the NCAA Championships and won first place in the 200 breaststroke competition. In the 2012 Olympics, Atkins came in fourth place during the 100m breaststroke.
The first Black swimmer to win a medal in the Olympics was Enith Brigitha. Brigitha, who was born on the island of Curacao but represented the Netherlands, won two bronze medals during the 100 and 200 freestyles during the 1976 Summer Olympics which took place in Montreal, Canada.
She received other silver and bronze titles throughout her career, but retired a few years after she made history in ’76.