Coach hails ‘rare gem’ – 10-year-old swimmer hopes to break world records like idol, Alia Atkinson

After smashing the 50 metres breaststroke record by four seconds at the Burger King/Popeyes Swim Championships yesterday, 10-year-old Christanya Shirley said that she hopes to break world records like her idol, Alia Atkinson, one day.

Shirley, representing Wolmer’s Preparatory School, touched the wall in 39.20 seconds to erase Jada Newell’s five-year-old mark of 43.42 seconds.

“One day, I want to swim in the Olympics and break records for Jamaica like my inspiration, Alia Atkinson,” Shirley said after the meet.

Her performance opened many eyes at the National Aquatic Centre, including her coach, Rashay Wilson, who believes that she is a rare gem.

“It’s very rare to actually find an athlete like this, to be honest. Most swimmers at her age normally start off slow, but she is the type of person who is always on the go. So you have to tell her to hold the pace and don’t go too hard,” Shirley said. “Personally, I don’t think that there is a bridge that she can’t cross. Since I have her, she has been progressing unexpectedly fast because the time that she is doing now at 10 years old is very advanced for her age, and I know she will continue to improve throughout the rest of the season.”

Shirley’s outstanding overall performance at the meet ensured that her school finished second in the girls’ category.

Wolmer’s, 96 points, were a distant second to Immaculate Conception Preparatory with 147. Mt Alvernia Prep tallied 84 for third place.

On the boys’ side, Sts Peter and Paul Prep scored topped rivals with 170 points. Stella Maris Prep, 130, claimed second spot while Hillel Preparatory was third with 90.