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Leisel Jones stories should be about body of work, not the body

July 25, 2012|By Lisa Dillman
  • Leisel Jones of Australia during a training session on Wednesday.
Leisel Jones of Australia during a training session on Wednesday. (Patrick B. Kraemer / EPA )

LONDON -- One of the quickest ways to raise anxiety level in … well, many women, is this simple suggestion:

“Let’s go try on swimsuits!”

(Hey, there is an excellent reason the lights are dim in department store dressing rooms. Finishing an expense report is more enjoyable.)

 Most of us have friends who look perfectly fine in a swimsuit but can look at their picture and find flaws detectable to almost no one else. In fact, a  recent study by Australian researchers concluded that even thinking about trying on a suit can ruin a woman’s mood.

It is a sensitive topic, understandably.

Which might explain, in part, the reaction to the treatment of swim star Leisel Jones by the Australian media. There were less-than-flattering photos of Jones -- a three-time Olympic gold medalist -- at practice here this week and stories raising questions about her level of fitness.

Reaction was fast and furious. Australia’s chef de mission, Nick Green, called the coverage “disgraceful” in his daily press briefing on Wednesday, and quite a few Australian swimmers and athletes from other sports took to Twitter to lash out at the media and lament the double standard in coverage of men and women.

Olympian Jessica Hardy of Long Beach has competed against Jones for many years and called her a  “beautiful person.” Hardy had some thoughtful observations about the media treatment of Jones and the larger issue of coverage at the Olympic Games.

“Even leading up to the Games, I’ve noticed all these articles about who the hottest female Olympians are, and it seems like that is almost as important or more important than our actual talent in the pool,” Hardy told The Times during a Speedo press event at Forman’s Fish Island in the neighborhood of Hackney Wick.

“It’s more pressure that we have to try to ignore, look past and not self-obsess over. It’s a natural feeling to be insecure when you’re in a suit every day. You’ve got to get over it [that feeling] pretty quick.”

Hardy’s two individual events in London are the 50-meter freestyle and 100 freestyle. In 2005, she broke Jones’ world record in the 100 breaststroke. Jones won the gold medal four years ago in the 100 breaststroke at the Olympics.

“I know she’s a great person and a tough person, and I know she is not going to let it get to her and affect her performances,” Hardy said.

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