Olympics great Mark Spitz believes politically active athletes are unlikely to heed demands for them not to protest during Tokyo 2020.

United States swimming superstar Spitz won seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Games to establish himself as an all-time legend of the pool.

He recalled the Black Power salute from American track athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Mexico Games four years earlier as a prime example of Olympians using their platform to take a powerful stance in front of the watching world.

On the podium in Mexico City, after Smith won gold in the 200 metres and Carlos took bronze, the American sprinters each stood with a black-gloved hand raised and head bowed, an immortal protest against racism in the United States.

Spitz acknowledged the determined efforts of current sporting superstars such as LeBron James and Lewis Hamilton to draw attention to similar matters of racial prejudice.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said last year that the Olympics "are not and must never be a platform to advance political or any other divisive ends".

Bach added: "Our political neutrality is undermined whenever organisations or individuals attempt to use the Olympic Games as a stage for their own agendas, as legitimate as they may be."

In an interview with Stats Perform, Spitz said of the IOC's intentions: "I know they have had some campaigns at a political level not to make it a platform for people to speak out against things that are obviously a concern to them, and they use when they stand on the podium and win a medal to voice their opinion.

"I am on the fence in how I feel about it. An example was Tommie Smith and John Carlos who held their hands up in the 1968 Olympic Games in track and field. And that still resonates to this day.

"And the issues they spoke loud and clear about are still happening here in America and worldwide. So I don't think people's rightful opportunity to speak out will be eradicated."

Speaking courtesy of Laureus, Spitz added: "I think there's a proper place and a proper time and in most people's opinion the proper place and time are when the most people in the world are listening to you.

"And certainly that provokes those sort of things to happen at the Olympics, or other events for that matter."

Formula One champion Hamilton and NBA superstar James have used their global fame as a means to call for equality in society and sport.

Spitz stressed he remained "down the middle of the line" on political protests in sport, but he added: "I think morally if they feel they need to speak out then they should. And there's a way to do that in a polite and politically correct and accurate way. I think those two gentlemen [Hamilton and James] have done so."

Spitz, now 71, no longer holds the record for the most gold medals in a single Games after fellow swimming great Michael Phelps won eight at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

He predicted organisers of the delayed Tokyo Olympics - set back a year by the COVID-19 pandemic - will go the extra mile to deliver a standout entertainment experience for the worldwide audience.

International spectators have been banned from travelling to watch the Games, in an effort to control the spread of the virus.

"I suspect and hope they will go off without a hitch, but in keeping with tradition I'm not sure how they'll do an opening ceremony with all those people, or an opening ceremony show," Spitz said.

"It is a big revenue generator for the television networks to have those part of the festivities. It's a shame if it's not done as we're accustomed to seeing, but I think it will be modified and we'll be happy with what the presentation will be I hope."

The youth of the CARIFTA region were treated to an excellent performance by Alex Sobers of Barbados who hit three Tokyo Olympic B times at the ISCA International Senior Cup.

The Jamaican government will provide more than JMD$45 million in direct financial support to athletes preparing for this summer’s Tokyo Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

Olympian Alia Atkinson continued in her fantastic form at the 2021 Florida Gold Coast Senior Championships held from March 19-21 in Florida.

Competing for South Florida Aquatics, Atkinson was at her imperious best winning all three of her individual events to make it 13 victories from 14 starts in 2021.

Her compatriots, Morgan Cogle of Jupiter Dragons and Simone Vale of Pine Crest Swimming, also competed at the meet with creditable results

What was outstanding about Atkinson’s swims, was the manner in which she achieved victory.

In the 100-yard freestyle, she broke ground for herself and Jamaican swimming breaking the national record in the event.

After cruising to the final as the top seed by virtue of her 50.72 in the preliminary round, she unleashed in the final, taking the first 50 yards in 23.50. She eventually stopped the clock 48.81 winning by more than two seconds.

She also lowered her previous personal best of 49.64 while breaking the previous record of 49.08 that was set by compatriot, former club teammate and fellow Olympian and friend Natasha Moodie.

The time also made Atkinson the first Jamaican woman to swim under 49 seconds in the event.

As it turns out, Atkinson was only just warming up.

In the 100-yard butterfly, Atkinson lowered her own pool record and Jamaican best of 52.62 to win in 52.01 while showing the field a clean pair of heels winning by almost three seconds.

She would go on to win the 100-yard breaststroke final by more than three seconds stopping the clock in 58.92 (split time 27.26). The win represented the 10th fastest time of her career and the best she has registered since 2019.

There would be more trips to top of the podium after splitting 50 yards in 28.09 to propel South Florida Aquatics to victory in the 200-yard medley relay in 1:46.71.

Cogle swam the opening backstroke leg in 28.47 for her team to finish in 1:51.30.

In the 200 yard freestyle, the results would be golden for Cogle and her Jupiter Dragons. She split 24.09 to give her team the lead after her second leg.

Atkinson erased that lead with her third leg split of 23.04. However, the Dragons had too much firepower on the last leg and came back to win 1:37.41 to SFA’s 1:37.59.

Meanwhile, Cogle continued to achieve personal milestones, the best of which came in the 100-yard backstroke.

Heading to the senior championships, she held had a personal best time of 1:00.30 in the 100-yard backstroke. She blew that time out of the water clocking 58.89, bettering her previous best by more than a second.

In the 100-yard freestyle, she lowered her personal best from 53.87 to 52.97.

She also lowered her previous best in the 50-yard freestyle from 24.92 to 24.76.

She fell just short of a personal best in the 200-yard freestyle in which she clocked 1:56.69 just shy of her best time of 1:56.42.

Simone Vale opened her 2021 campaign at this meet and featured in two Championship finals.

In the 100-yard backstroke, she placed ninth with a time of 59.39. She would also contest the longest backstroke race, the 200-yard event, in which she placed 10th in 2:12.39.

The South Florida Aquatics Club won the women’s section won with 1013.50 points. Pine Crest was second with 492 points. The Jupiter Dragons were sixth with 273.50 points. The South Florida Aquatics also captured the men and overall titles.

Tokyo 2020 organisers have announced spectators will not be allowed to travel from overseas to watch the Olympic Games this year.

The measure has been taken as part of an effort to reduce the risks of COVID-19 spreading at the delayed Games.

The Games will run from July 23 to August 8, having been set back by a year due to the global health crisis.

Also affected will be the Paralympics, which runs from August 24 to September 5, with travelling spectators also barred from attending.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) have been advised of Tokyo's decision and are said by Games chiefs to "respect and accept this conclusion".

In a statement issued on Twitter, Tokyo 2020 said: "Today, on March 20, we reported to the IOC and IPC that we would not accept overseas spectators to Japan in order to realise a safe and secure event.

"We will continue to do our utmost to make this summer's event a safe and secure event so that it will be a light of hope for people all over the world."

In a further statement, Tokyo 2020 organisers said tickets purchased by those planning to travel from abroad would be refunded.

They said the coronavirus situation within and beyond Japan "remains very challenging" and pointed to travel across borders being "severely restricted", meaning entry to Japan could not be guaranteed.

"In order to give clarity to ticket holders living overseas and to enable them to adjust their travel plans at this stage, the parties on the Japanese side have come to the conclusion that they will not be able to enter into Japan at the time of the Olympic and Paralympic Games," said the Tokyo 2020 statement.

"This conclusion will further contribute to ensure safe and secure Games for all participants and the Japanese public."

After two days of sunshine, the heavens opened on the third day of the 2021 Piranha Senior Invite in Plantation, Florida, for the finals but it didn’t change the course of Alia Atkinson’s dominance over the proceedings.

Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson is among the headliners for the Piranhas Senior Invite that began yesterday and runs until Sunday, March 7.

Atkinson, who will be heading to her fifth Olympics in Tokyo, is the number one seed in both 50 and 100-metre breaststroke as well as the 50 and100-metre butterfly at the meet being hosted by the Plantation swim team.

In addition to Atkinson’s presence, another potential highlight is the anticipated heavyweight clash between Brazilian World Championship 50m freestyle silver medalist, Bruno Fratus, and Suriname’s Central American and Caribbean Games 50m freestyle champion Renzo Tjon A Joe, in the sprint freestyle races.

Other swimmers from the Caribbean region looking to sharpen up for the respective bids for the Tokyo Games include St Lucian Jayhan Odlum Smith, Haiti’s Davidson Vincent and Aruba’s Patrick Groters.

President of the Bahamas Aquatics Federation Algernon Cargill was returned unopposed to the post at the federation’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Saturday.

Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson continued her winning ways at the multi-site Southern Zone Sectionals that got underway in Coral Springs and Sarasota respectively late last week.

In the 50m butterfly at Coral Springs, Atkinson was in a league of her own as she stopped the clock in 26.61. Second overall went to Olivia Peoples of the Bolles Sharks in Sarasota and Kathryn Giuffdra of Haines City Tritons in Coral Springs who both clocked 27.73.

The time was the Atkinson was under 27 seconds since 2018. It is also her third fastest ever performance and puts her national record of 26.54 in jeopardy.

In the 50m breaststroke Atkinson easily won gold in a time of 31.45.

Second place went to Marcela Scaramuzza of Trinity Prep in 33.10 and Taylor Grabenhorst won bronze in 33.15.

In winning, Atkinson easily demolished her 2021 season-best of 33.47 set last Saturday at Plantation. With her win on Thursday, the national record holder extends her unbeaten streak in the event in America to eight races.

Since 2017, she has turned back all challengers on US soil. She is the only CARIFTA region swimmer to make the World Championship final in the event. She also holds the accolade of being the only medalist in this sprint race.

Meanwhile, national teammate Morgan Cogle, who represents the Jupiter Dragons, lowered her personal best of 33.33 from 2018 in the 50m backstroke crushing it to record 32.67 and place 18th overall.

World Championship representative Keanan Dols who swims for the Gator Swim Club was 21st in the 50-metre butterfly stopping the clock in a time of 26.63.

Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson opened her long- course season this past weekend in Plantation Florida, winning two gold and a silver medal at the Florida Gold Coast Senior qualifier.

The 2021 Carifta Swimming Championships that had been set to get underway from March 26 to April 7 has been postponed due to the recent spikes in the number of Covid-19 cases in Barbados.

Three-time Olympic champion Sun Yang had his eight-year ban from swimming overturned by the Swiss Federal Tribunal.

Sun, 29, was initially handed the suspension in February after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) appeal against the decision from FINA, the international swimming federation, to clear the Chinese swimmer of wrongdoing over allegations stemming from a visit to his home by out-of-competition testers in September 2018.

But the Swiss Federal Tribunal overturned the ban, WADA confirmed on Wednesday.

"The Swiss Federal Tribunal's decision upholds a challenge against the Chair of the CAS Panel and makes no comment on the substance of this case," a WADA statement read.

"In the CAS award, WADA clearly prevailed on the substance of the case as it was able to show that there were a number of aspects of the original FINA decision that were incorrect under the World Anti-Doping Code and the related International Standard for Testing and Investigations.

"WADA will take steps to present its case robustly again when the matter returns to the CAS Panel, which will be chaired by a different president.

"At this stage, WADA has not received the Tribunal’s full reasoned decision and therefore cannot comment further."

Sun is a six-time Olympic medallist, including winning two golds at London 2012 and another in Rio four years later.

He is also an 11-time world champion, most recently doing the 200-metre and 400-metre freestyle double in Gwangju in 2019.

Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson says she is honoured to have been named Champion Ambassador of the Special Olympics Movement. The announcement came on Thursday as the Special Olympics celebrated International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Atkinson is the first competing Olympic athlete appointed to the role Caribbean.

“The role of Champion Ambassador for Special Olympics defines the power of real purpose,” Atkinson told the Jamaica Gleaner.

“Special Olympics athletes meet the challenge each day to realize their full potential, and I’m honoured to have the chance to learn from them, and to share our experiences together as we strive for inclusion for those with intellectual disabilities.”

Alia Atkinson capped off her strong 2020 ISL campaign with two second-place and a third place finish during the weekend finals when last season’s runners up, London Roar, finished third.

Build, battle and get better is the motto Alia Atkinson will be using to motivate herself and her teammates as the London Roar head into this weekend’s final of the International Swimming League in Budapest.

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