Leisel Jones body scrutiny nothing new

Jocelyn McLennan Roar Pro

By Jocelyn McLennan, Jocelyn McLennan is a Roar Pro

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11 Have your say

    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.

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    The Crowd Says (11)

    • July 27th 2012 @ 12:50am
      Bru Baker said | July 27th 2012 @ 12:50am | ! Report

      I thought elite, professional athletes were meant to train hard and be in tip-top condition for their Olympic events. After all, they do receive generous financial grants from the Australian Government, which is tax-payers money.
      Photos don’t lie, I’m afraid Leisel looks like she’ll really struggle to be competitive in the pool this week, which is such a pity after her impressive career. If she’s this fat at 27 while in full training mode, what will she look like at 40?
      Incidentially, my wife was about the same shape as Leisel at age 27, but she was 6 months pregnant. I hope Ms Jones proves the critics wrong but doubt whether she has given herself any chance this time around.
      She chose not to attend the Australian team’s pre-Olympic camp in Montpellier earlier this month, claiming she would get homesick. What a joke missing such an important team training camp just prior to the Olympics. Would she get homesick being away from McDonalds?
      Leisel’s obvious lack of fitness is an embarrassment to Australia and makes us the laughing stock of the world. Sack the swimming coaches as well for allowing her to eat pizzas every night.
      Is it too late for her to switch events from the breaststroke to weightlifting?

      • July 27th 2012 @ 8:07am
        mushi said | July 27th 2012 @ 8:07am | ! Report

        Bru she still had to beat people to get there right? She’s still a world class swimmer at 27.

        So she can basically say “hey Bru even though you think I’m fat and unmotivated I am SO much better at this than you are and ever will be at anything in your life, anything”

      • July 28th 2012 @ 5:03pm
        Stevo said | July 28th 2012 @ 5:03pm | ! Report

        Well said Bru Baker. While it might be more politically correct to sit back and say “Good Luck Leisel”, anyone remotely involved in high performance sport can see that unfortunately Leisel has let herself go in terms of hard training and comittment to the Australian Olympic Team. We all have enjoyed watching Leisel (and the other stars) perform so well and win medals at Olympic Games, World Championships and Commonwealth Games over the past decade. That is why it is such a shock to see Leisel turn up so out of shape this time. The increased money and sponsorship that is available to elite sports people these days has seen many try to prolong their careers to take advantage of these opportunities. That is fine, so long as they are still good enough, plus they take the responsibility seriously. The focus will be on Leisel’s times in the breastroke – not whether she wins a medal. We hope she comes through OK and does not embarrass both herself and our proud nation.

    • Roar Guru

      July 27th 2012 @ 5:24am
      k77sujith said | July 27th 2012 @ 5:24am | ! Report

      Hi Jocelyn, a very well documented write-up here. As for Jones, like you, I feel this is an outright media beat-up. She’s never sported a stringbean-like figure and it’s unfortunate that the media has come up with this story at such a crucial stage.

      What works against Jones is the fact that she happens to be a woman and women are always scrutinized about weight in society. Yes, male sportsmen are questioned as well but it’s a lot more destructive when the target happens to be someone from the fairer sex.

      I’m still gunning for her to prove her critics wrong. She’s got great potential as many experts claim and one can only hope that she doesn’t get affected by this sparring story. It’s hard though to keep this out of your head when competing. Time will tell. Thanks.

    • July 27th 2012 @ 7:33am
      Bondy said | July 27th 2012 @ 7:33am | ! Report

      It will unfortunately always be the same for sportswomen in the western world at least, i’d strongly suggest theres a male shooter or male equestrian rider for Australia running around the Olympic village with man breasts but nobody cares although there are journalists creeping round a swimming pool disecting photos of still young women potentially looking for body fat.Its a strange old world we live in.

    • July 27th 2012 @ 11:02am
      Betty B said | July 27th 2012 @ 11:02am | ! Report

      she looked pretty trim at the trials. Doubt if she’s put on weight since then. Photoshop?

    • Roar Guru

      July 27th 2012 @ 11:29am
      Hoy said | July 27th 2012 @ 11:29am | ! Report

      There is no doubt that at the last olympics, her and Trickett looked in peak physical condition. In fact, I think the thought of doping reared up, because they looked so much fitter and stronger than their opponents.

      The pictures shown recently sure don’t make Liesel look in peak physical condition. If she wins, she can stick it up everyone really, and rightly so.

      If she loses…?

      The Grill Team in Brisbane was giving it to her pretty badly yesterday on radio about how out of shape she looked, but also how she didn’t seem to focussed on the events. I had to laugh when Giann Rooney was defending Jones, saying “When you have swum for your country, you can make a comment”… to which Marto said “Excuse , I have played for my state and country…” Giann picked the wrong person and argument there.

      It is cruel, and I feel for Jones. But the proof will be in the pudding, possibly literally. If she wins, good on her. If she loses, well…

    • July 27th 2012 @ 11:40am
      Johnno said | July 27th 2012 @ 11:40am | ! Report

      -Just newspapers wanting to sell a few papers $$$$ to make some money.

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