The focus on Leisel Jones’ body shape, and perceived lack of fitness, is nothing new for our swimmers.
During the 1976 Montreal Olympics, a cartoon appeared in the Australian press of the darling Australian swimmer of the time, Jenny Turrell.
The 16-year-old Turrell was depicted on the blocks with a piece of cake while her opponent, the American winner of the race, was with the gold medal. The depiction of Turrell was one of a large girl and that of the American, very fit and trim.
Turrell had been the teenage wonder kid of Australian swimming during its golden age of the early 1970s. She had set world 800 metre record at age 14 and had held it to only six weeks prior to the Montreal games.
Although she has lost the record she was still expected to at least medal in the event. She finished last, with a time 9.40 seconds slower than her former world record.
Turrell herself even admitted at he time she was overweight and retired from the sport altogether in November 1976, citing that she could no longer keep her weight under control and she had lost her motivation.
At such a tender age you could understand her torment and it is nothing knew for maturing teenage girls to battle her weight in the mid teens.
Her retirement at 16 echoed that of Shane Gould and Stephen Holland, who both gave it away during their teens when they were still in their prime. It was unheard of then, of swimmers continuing into their 20s, as we see now with Leisel at a mature age of 26 in comparison.
The original ‘Superfish’ Stephen Holland also copped the wrath of the Australian press and public for his ‘failure’ in Montreal for ‘only’ winning a bronze in his pet 1500 metres, to which he had set multiple world records in the three years prior.
His career had captured the country’s imagination even to the point where he had a pop song written and recorded about him.
The vitriol that followed his bronze medal, at a games where Australia failed to win a gold medal, hurt him deeply and he walked away from the sport.
For Jones, there is only one way to silence any such image scrutiny and that is with her performance in the pool this coming week.
It is only hoped she does not suffer the same fate as Turrell.