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Relaxed Jones happy out of the spotlight

23 July 2012

SWIMMING: Swimming diva Leisel Jones has arrived in London bereft of the glaring spotlight that shone on her ahead of her three previous Olympic appearances and that’s just the way she likes it.

In Sydney in 2000 she was a baby faced 15-year-old who garnered plenty of attention because of her age, while in Athens and Beijing she wore the pressure of being the gold medal favourite and world record holder.

This time around a calm Jones comes into the 100 metres breaststroke as the defending champion but in the unfamiliar position of 14th on the world rankings and more than a second and a half down on world record holder Rebecca Soni of the United States. 

“To say that I’m in the same mindset as I was in Beijing would be completely incorrect,” Jones said.

“I’m so relaxed and I’m just really enjoying everything about these Games and the lead up.

“It has probably been the most challenging lead up to this Olympics. I think Beijing was quite easy in the sense that I knew I wanted gold and do everything to get there.

This time it’s been so much more relaxed and it’s such a different way to look at things. 

“So it’s really quite exciting and just so nice to have no pressure on. It’s so nice to be relaxed.” 

Jones needs just one more podium finish to tie with the great Ian Thorpe with nine Olympic medals and with up to two events at these Games the breaststroker could walk away from London as Australia’s most decorated athlete at the Olympic Games.

Currently sitting with an Olympic haul of three gold, four silver and a bronze from the Sydney, Athens and Beijing Games, Jones is equal with fellow swimming heroines Dawn Fraser, Petria Thomas and Susie O’Neill.

There is also the chance to create history and emulate Fraser as the only Australian swimmer to win the same event at three consecutive Olympics if she can be part of a successful gold medal defence of the 4x100m medley relay title.

To win both her races – the individual 100m and the medley relay, which she will battle for a spot on the team with rookie Leiston Pickett – Jones will have to overcome Soni.

“I’m really excited to be racing Rebecca Soni again,” Jones said. 

“She has been dominating the 100 metres breaststroke for about the last four years and she is obviously one of my toughest competitors and I really enjoy racing against her. 

“I think she’s one of the greatest I’ve ever seen so it’s going to be a very tough race.”

The women’s 100m breaststroke is on Day 2. 

Dave Lyall

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