Australian Olympic swimmer Leisel Jones remains determined and committed to her sport in the midst of a media firestorm over her body.
It seems no matter how accomplished an individual is — particularly a woman — sexism is always at play. Swimmer Leisel Jones holds eight Olympic medals since her first appearance at the 2000 Sydney Games when she was just a fifteen-year-old girl. She took home two silver medals that year.
She returns to the Olympics at the 2012 London Games a champion and fan favorite. Yet, despite her athleticism and clear ability to participate with the most elite members of her sport, her own media drummed up a firestorm of cruel comments and snide remarks about her weight. Pictures surfaced of Jones at training sessions and instantly her body was a national concern.
The lack of respect — especially from her own country who she represents in the 2012 London Olympic Games — appalled many and caused the head of Australian’s Olympic Committee to lash out at the media. Nick Green, who is Australia’s chef de mission, called the reports “disgraceful.”
“I think they’re disgraceful, to be honest,” he said. “I am very disappointed with the articles and I think they’re unfair on Leisel and the work she’s done for this country at this level. She’s a triple Olympic gold medalist, the winner of eight medals for this country and I think she deserves a lot more respect than she was given.
“I thinks it’s just unfair that she’s been targeted this way on the eve of what is, for her, a historic competition, the only female swimmer ever to go to four Games. This is the golden opportunity for athletes and they prepare for four years for it. Athletes don’t go for the Olympics for a holiday, they just don’t.”
Despite the unfair and out-of-line press reports, Leisel Jones maintains her focus on Olympic glory. Her coach, Michael Bohl, told The Australian Jones was certainly fit to compete. Bohl remarked that Jones is “swimming solidly [during practice] but she’s going to have to drop a couple of seconds from her best time this year to be in the medals.”
“She’s looking OK,” continued Bohl. “She has to get down to her best [time]. If she’s not down to her best, she’s not going to be competitive here.”
Friends and teammates of Leisel took to Twitter to dispel any rumors. Libby Trickett — who holds six medals — says she’s not worried about Jones. “Leisel Jones is the epitome of a champion in our sport and it’s a huge honour to represent Australia alongside her. Support our athletes!!”