Like Grant Hackett’s photo four years ago, when I first saw Leisel Jones’s picture, my first thought was, “What? She is representing Australia?”
Make no mistake, that was not an unflattering picture.
An unflattering picture is when you have an accidental double chin or something. Now I am not a professional athlete, but I do play a few sports and I do live in Bondi.
I am not saying she is fat, but when I was playing club rugby last December in Hong Kong and bulked myself up to 77 kilos, with a fairly high BMI number, I didn’t appear as having that high a body fat percentage.
I read an article recently about Michael Phelps’ diet and I understand just how many calories a swimmer consumes every day. This might be a case of Jones having a slower metabolism than she had when she was younger and her body just can’t process the energy she used to be able to burn off easily, but that’s what her dietician is for.
I think as an Olympian, one has a responsibility to have some self-awareness if you are getting paid for it. It’s the professional duty of an athlete to prepare her body in a manner that would allow her to perform the best she can. What came across to me was that she did not put herself in a position to succeed.
It may not be fair to say this about a veteran swimmer who has achieved so much, but guess what? If she swims poorly, people are not going to state the fact that she was an outside medal chance to begin with, they will be saying how she let herself down with her weight issue.
I am not trying to objectify female athletes’ body images but Jones is not tweeting a photo of herself in a Steph Rice bikini or warming up like Michelle Jenneke anytime soon. I am only bringing them up because an athlete trying to win at the highest level would not let herself be slowed down with such a burden. Jones simply just did not back herself to be competitive.
I have to admit I have little sympathy for people who don’t take good care of their bodies, partly because I am shallow and partly because I was a borderline obese kid and it took me years to become the welterweight that I am now. So I figured I should get a second opinion on this sensitive issue.
I asked a mate who used to be a swimmer at school for his opinion. He said Jones is going to become a four time Olympian, so she must know what it takes to win gold better than anyone. Then he gave me an interesting theory. Now I am not sure if he was trolling or being serious, so I am just going to put this out there.
“Fat floats, man.”
He backed this up by saying it would increase her buoyancy and keep her out of the water.
But in the end my mate admitted she is probably above than her ideal weight.
I am not writing this article because Jones appears to be out of shape, but because she is an athlete who seems to not be physically prepared for the Olympics.
I adore women of all body shapes and I genuinely believe a woman should not be judged by her body image. But this is not the Biggest Loser – making an athlete feel good about herself won’t win her a medal. We need to stop defending our athletes when they are clearly unfit.
I apologize again for spilling the inconvenient and controversial truth on this sensitive topic, but I must respectfully decline to participate in this feel-good moment.