DOHA: Alia Atkinson became the first black woman to win a world swimming title when she triumphed in the 100m breaststroke at the world short-course championships on Saturday as more records tumbled.
Jamaican Atkinson, 25, claimed the title and equalled Ruta Meilutyte’s world record of 1min 02.36sec in the process — although under governing body FINA rules this still equates to a new record.
That took the total of world records set at the Hamad Aquatic Centre to 17.
The tone was set in the first event as Russia set a new mark of 1:22.60 in the men’s 4x50m freestyle relay with Atkinson’s effort in the very next race.
Katinka Hosszu claimed her fourth world record in the 200m individual medley before the session ended with a new mark for the United States in the mixed 4x50m freestyle (1:28.57).
However, it was Atkinson who lit up the pool. Meilutyte appeared on course for a successful defence of her title only for her rival to move on to the Lithuanian’s shoulder at the final turn.
Atkinson then clawed her way down the final length before out-touching the 17-year-old by 0.10sec.
She was completely unaware of what she had done, staring up at the scoreboard with an air of resignation before it gradually dawned.
“Me?,” she mouthed, pointing at herself before the enormity of her achievement was absorbed and so started the celebrations.
She told AFP: “I couldn’t believe it! It came down to the same thing as the 50 and on the 50 I got out-touched so in my mind I went straight back to that.
“I just thought ‘oh okay’ and looked up at the board and it didn’t really click yet and then it really started to click. It took a while!”
Atkinson’s role at the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Florida is to encourage greater involvement of different communities in swimming and to promote water safety.