Instead of being splashed across Australian news websites for being the first swimmer to qualify for four Olympic Games or her potential to be the first female flag bearer in four Games’, Leisel Jones is facing scrutiny based upon some unflattering photographs only days out from the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
With journos posing questions like ‘Is Leisel looking lethal?’ and compiling photo galleries comparing Jones’ current stature to that of her leaner, younger self at the 2008 games, quotes from her coach describing the swimmer as ‘looking OK’ are being favoured over those in which he has said that Leisel is achieving some of the best times recently seen in training.
Sydney Morning Herald website:
Now, don’t get us wrong, questioning the weight of an elite athlete isn’t completely invalid. After all, the ability to perform is tethered to indicators like skin folds and BMI. If Jones under-performs as a result of lack of preparation and physical fitness, people have the right to question her dedication to the sport. However, with the media jokingly referring to London 2012 as her ‘icing on the cake’, this commentary goes beyond treating her weight gain as just a performance issue.
Really, the only figures that should matter are Leisel Jones’ times in the pool. Suggestions that the swimmer is treating these Olympics as a holiday or ‘farewell tour’ are unfounded and frankly disrespectful. I don’t know about you, but turning up to nine swimming training sessions and two gym sessions a week in preparation for a holiday differs largely to my getaway prep activities of choice.
Former Olympic swimmers Giann Rooney and Hayley Lewis have come out in support of Jones, criticising the media for focusing on something so non-constructive, not only in relation to Jones’ mental state leading up to competition but also to the thousands of Aussies who battle with body image issues.
Unfortunately, body-shaming is not new to swimming with some of the country’s best athletes like Grant Hackett and Geoff Huegill criticised in the past over their weight gain.
Hopefully Jones will let her performance at the Games answer any questions her detractors have made about her fitness.
Words by Nikki Brogan
Photo by Clive Rose, Getty Images