Photo Source: Alia Atkinson Instagram
By StephanieK, Jamaicans
Jamaican Olympic swim star Alia Atkinson has been named as a Champion Ambassador of the Special Olympics Movement. Her appointment was announced on December 3, 2020, during the celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. She is the first competing Olympic athlete to be named to this role in the Caribbean.
In an interview with The Gleaner newspaper, Atkinson said that the role of Champion Ambassador “defines the power of real purpose” and recognizes that Special Olympics athletes “meet the challenge each day to realize their full potential.” She added that she was honored to have the opportunity to learn from these athletes and to share experiences as they all “strive for inclusion for those with intellectual disabilities.”
In her career, Atkinson has not only represented Jamaica, but also the dreams and hopes of athletes worldwide. Her achievements have raised a whole population that is frequently denied not only access to a swimming pool, but to quality health care, education, and job opportunities. She has stated that the sport made her the person she is today, motivating her to want to set a positive example for others. The sport has helped her to build character, discipline, and sportsmanship, she added, telling The Gleaner that sport has a powerful role in the empowerment of those who live at the margins of their communities. It has shown her, “as it has shown the athletes of Special Olympics, that there are ups and downs in life, “ but that through all the challenges, they “can and will persevere.”
Atkinson serves as Champion Ambassador at a critical moment in history as the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the serious vulnerability faced by people with intellectual disabilities. As many of them have underlying health conditions, they suffer a disproportionately negative and often fatal impact from the virus.
Special Olympics has more than 6 million participating athletes around the world in over 190 countries and territories. It represents the largest grassroots sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities. The organization is eager to harness the power of Atkinson’s new role and is honored that the champion swimmer decided to give her support to Special Olympics athletes. According to Lorna Bell, the executive director of Special Olympics Caribbean, Alia Atkinson is the perfect person to help the group attain greater public and social awareness.