Australian swimmer and all around national sweetheart Leisel Jones has been criticised this week for appearing much chubbier than the usual svelte athlete we are used to seeing.
I used to be an amateur swimmer, training with the likes of Jodie Henry (Ok, so I was only a little kid then, but I don't have many claims to fame!) and at my very fittest swimming a minimum of 7km a day, 7 days a week. I was fit enough to run for hours and I looked just like Leisel does now. We also have to remember that she is 4 years older, and her body is getting to a stage of naturally beginning to slow down. She isn't the 15 year old girl we all met 12 years ago anymore, she is a beautiful young woman.
To me, she is our generation's Dawn Fraser, she's different, but packs all the same talent and punch into one dynamic package. If we look back at pictures of Dawn, she doesn't look all that different from the way Leisel does now, but back then nobody cared. Back when the world was proud of all women, regardless of shape or size.
She is the first Australian swimmer to compete in 4 Olympic games, let alone back to back games! The first EVER. She is fit enough to compete at that level so who are we to judge? There are people much thinner, much more unfit, much less confident, and far less healthy in this world.
If we were able to vote for a flag bearer, Leisel would be my one and only choice. I have grown up with her on the screen every 4 years, and if she hasn't done enough to earn the world's respect by now...then honey, I say screw them all.
Leisel has commented that she is in a very different, but more determined and comfortable mindset than she was going into Beijing, and seeing as how she bought us home Aussie gold then, I don't see how this is a bad thing, even if she is carrying a little extra cushion.
Other Olympians have stood by Jones supporting her through this disgustingly low blow, including Cathy Freeman, Hayley Lewis, Alice Tait, and particularly fellow Swimmer Melanie Schlanger, who has led a social media rampage to raise support for Leisel.
I hope to see Leisel do it again and bring home some of that sweet, sweet gold, and wherever she is, I hope she knows she is perfect just the way she is!
Ms. Jones, we salute you!
Tweet with hashtag #layoffleisel to show your support for our first lady of the pool!