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Jamaican Alia Atkinson Determined to Smash The Stereotype About Blacks and Swimming

Alia Atkinson believes her world title won at the Short Course Swimming Championship is evidence enough that Black people can swim as fast as their white counterparts.

The 26-year-old Jamaican swimmer, who attended a recent Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange, said the popular view that physical structure and muscle density has held back people of Black ethnicity in the pool is a myth.

“I proved those false. A lot of people said with my body type I wouldn’t be effective in the water, because my lower half is bigger than my top half. There is the factor that a lot of people still believe Black people can’t swim and their body isn’t made for swimming, but there has been no evidence to prove that,” she said.

“You have some big, muscular European men that are bigger than any black man I’ve seen. So the physique, the density of the muscles isn’t really a factor. It’s how efficient you are in water, given the body that you have. The fact of the matter is that swimming is for anybody, no matter the physique,” added the swimmer, based in the United States.

Atkinson’s 100-meter women’s breaststroke win in Qatar last December came in a time of 1:02.36 seconds and tied the world record of Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte, which the teenager set in 2013.

In the process Atkinson became the first Black woman to hold a world swimming title. Even before then, she had the privilege of being one of an esteemed few Black spokespersons in the sport, a position she uses to inspire others of similar skin hue.

United States’ Cullen Jones, a gold medallist in the freestyle 100m relay in 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, has also been making a push for encouraging more Blacks to learn to swim.

The US, a country with a diverse ethnic composition, is said to have close to 3,500 accidental drownings every year.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the fatal drowning rate of African-American children aged five to 14 is three times that of white children.

A 2010 study sponsored by USA Swimming uncovered stark statistics. A frightening 69 percent of African-American children surveyed said they had no or low ability to swim. A further 12 percent said they could swim, but were self-taught.

The study found 58 percent of Hispanic children had no or low swimming ability. For white children, the figure was 42 percent.

Read more at Jamaica Observer

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4 thoughts on “Jamaican Alia Atkinson Determined to Smash The Stereotype About Blacks and Swimming

  1. Dmax Lomax says:

    I don't think she has to prove anything. The fact that there are not many black swimmers is because there is not much interest with blacks and competitive swimming yet. But believe me, as soon as blacks are interested watch out, lol.

  2. In the US, it may be more about access and priorities. Not many urban schools have swim teams or pools. But they have plenty of myth perpetuating sports.
    Swimming in and of itself ins't expensive. But pools are. Not to mention the grotesquely high insurance costs too. Many schools just don't want to take the risk.
    At my Y, there are several high schools that use the pool for swim team training rather than taking on the expense of building their own. The teams that I have seen all have at least a couple black young men on the team but not black women. Yet the boys in the locker room still commented that the kids on their team are the only blacks they have seen at meets.
    These young black men swim as fast, or fast than their team mates. But, like tennis and golf, swimming is at least as much about technique as it is physical strength.
    So differences in muscle mass are not as big a factor as in athletic activities where strength is the dominant factor. If it was sheer strength, no woman would ever beat Ms. Williams on the tennis court. 🙂

  3. Dmax Lomax says:

    Mark Kelcourse Couldn't have said it better myself Mark. I was fortunate to grow up in Elmont, NY were all nationalities grew up next-door to one another. We had two swimming facilities that we could go to and must admit I'm a pretty good swimmer and a black man. Man I miss the unity in that neighborhood.

  4. Dmax Lomax Do you still compete? I'm no where near fast enough to compete. I'll be happy if I get my average time during my 6000yd morning swim down to 1:40 per 100. 🙂

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