Several years ago my parents signed me up for swimming lessons. They were offered at my prep school as an extracurricular activity. It wasn’t a bad idea since I was notorious for staying at school late. The lessons were also free. I started but stopped— something felt out of place.

Every now and then I’m reminded that I didn’t continue. I’m from Jamaica so when my friends and I visit public pools like Mayfair on West King’s House Road, Christar Villa and UTech’s swimming pool on Old Hope Road, we sit on the edge of the pool with our feet in the water. On the days we feel braver, we’d sit on the steps that lead into the shallow part of the pool— allowing the water to get somewhere past our ankles.

Like other prep schools, mine was expensive. The grounds were big. Facilities were generous. Teachers drove nice cars. Food options were healthy and most children had iPods and fancy bags with wheels like they were just coming from the airport.

During the semester, the chances of a pool party happening were high. The birthday boy/girl would issue the invitations at school. Invitations were given at a premium. They would hand them out after classes as instructed by a teacher. Of course, the teacher was trying her endeavour best to make sure we weren’t distracted from class. The attempt was usually a failure. The wait was intense. Throughout the day, persons would try to befriend the inviter by bringing up any memory they had in common, just in the hope of getting a verbal invite if they weren’t on ‘the list’. “Remember that time I pushed you on the swings?” When I’d get invited verbally, I’d feel like an outcast at the party.

Even though most of us did swimming together, it wasn’t enough to make me feel a part of the group. My classmates, who genuinely got invited had more in common with the birthday boy/girl. They had similar complexion, hair type, body type and financial status, or so I believed anyway.

On Alia Atkinson’s YouTube page, ‘Watabound’, Jim Ellis speaks about diversity in swimming. He explains that a swimmer shouldn’t have to leave their community to learn how to swim. A strange environment can make them feel intimidated. When there’s no camaraderie with teammates because of differences in social status or race, it can demotivate potential and professional swimmers.

An interview titled ‘Live chat with Alia Atkinson: world record holder in 50m breast’ premiered on June 24th 2019.

Jamaica is a majority black country, but at the same time, the differences among the blacks is tangible.

In the interview, Atkinson said, “ if you have a swimmer and she’s the only person of colour on the team you have to treat her differently than everybody else in the sense of ‘hey, how are you doing today?’” She recommends that coaches check in on athletes emotionally and mentally, especially when an athlete is different from everyone else. She continued by saying, everybody has a responsibility to open the door for somebody else. It’s important to look out for others from the sport who may be struggling.

My differences weren’t embraced. Consequently, I stopped swimming. My dreams of gliding through the water with impressive strokes didn’t seem practical because other swimmers didn’t look like me.

Please share your thoughts about differences and how they are treated in sport, any sport.

Share those thoughts on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use #IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

Alia Atkinson won a bronze medal time in the 100m breaststroke at the FINA Champions Series on Tuesday, following up in the bronze she won in the 50m breaststroke on Monday.

Olympian Alia Atkinson won a bronze medal in the 50m breaststroke on Monday at the Shenzhen leg of the FINA Champions Series.

Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson has been named the 2019 Swammy Awards CAC Female Athlete of the Year.

Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson won the short course 50m and 100m breaststroke events at the London leg of the International Swimming League on the weekend.

Jamaica swimmer Alia Atkinson claimed top spot for team Iron in the women’s 100 metre breaststroke at the 2019 International Swimming League (ISL) in Budapest on Sunday.

After winning the women’s 50 event on the previous day’s competition, Atkinson shot out like a bullet and led the race from wall to wall as she clocked 1:03.84 for the victory. 

The Jamaican managed to hold off a late-race charge from American Breeja Larson who was second in 1:04.40.  Larson finished just ahead of compatriot Annie Lazor who was third with a time of 1:04.41.  Atkinson, who was second in the event last week, was the only swimmer to finish under 1:04.

The win claimed vital points for team Iron.

“It was pretty good coming off the 200 (on Saturday). It came together. I think that was our best placing in the 100, so it’s on up and up,” Atkinson said following the race.

 

Alia Atkinson won the 50m breaststroke and was second in the 100m on her debut in the International Swimming League on the weekend.

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