Alia Atkinson (pictured) was in total disbelief when it was announced she had won a gold medal in the 100m breaststroke at the World Short Course Championships in Doha, Qatar on Saturday. Atkinson also became the first black woman to win a world title in swimming, according to the BBC.
The 25-year-old Jamaican-born swimmer, who placed fourth at the 2012 London Olympics and who had previously won three world short-course silver medals in the 50m and 100m breaststroke, tied for the world record with the reigning champ, Ruta Meilutyte from Lithuania.
Meilutyte, who lost by a stroke Saturday, led right up until the halfway mark but Atkinson was hot on her trail, snatching victory to win by a tenth in 1:02.36. Meilutyte finished in 1:02.46 and the two women will now share the world record in the race, with the meet record going to Atkinson. Atkinson’s time tied Meilutyte’s world record of 1:02.36, which she won previously in Moscow.
The first black woman swimmer to claim a world title victory also accomplished yet another first as the recipient of Jamaica’s first ever gold in world swimming championships.
Atkinson’s historic win is reminiscent of Enith Brigitha’s (pictured in water) iconic victory in the 70s. She was the first black athlete to win a swimming medal in the Olympics. As one of Holland’s leading swimmers, the Willemstad, Curaçao-born Brigitha represented the Netherlands twice at the summer Olympics beginning in 1972. She received two bronze medals at the ’76 summer Montreal games in the women’s 100m and 200m freestyle events.