Media Attacks Olympian Swimmer’s Weight

You would think being an eight-time Olympic medialist would allow you a break from public scrutiny about your body. Apparently not, as Leisel Jones, Australian Olympic swimmer, recently found out.

On July 24, the “Herald Sun,” a Melbourne-based newspaper, published photos of Jones from 2008 and some taken more recently, and stated that she doesn’t look as good as she once did. According to the Huffington Post:

The media outlet even published a photo caption stating: “The Olympic veteran’s figure is in stark contrast to that of 2008.” They also ran a poll asking readers whether Jones was “fit” enough to swim in the 2012 Olympics, Yahoo! Sports reported. Unsurprisingly, many haven’t taken too kindly to the focus on Jones’ physique — especially on the eve of the 2012 Summer Olympics Games in London. Public outcry prompted the Herald Sun to take down the poll soon after it was published.

Jones’ teammates on the Australian Olympic swim team, as well as many former Olympic athletes, jumped to her defense. Former Olympic track and road cyclist, Katherine Bates, tweeted, “My bad – I didn’t realise Leisel Jones earned her spot in London at a pageant. Here was I thinking she was a great swimmer!” Jones’ teammate, Melanie Schlanger, also tweeted, “I’m embarrassed by the Aussie media having a go at Leisel, one of Australia’s greatest Olympians. Support athletes don’t drag them down.”

Coverage of the 2012 Olympics has been horribly sexist, and this debacle over Jones’ weight is just one example. The Dutch field hockey team was recently called “field hockey minxes,” and British weightlifter Zoe Smith fired back at the media for saying that women can’t be athletic and attractive.

People are even disappointed that the beach volleyball players have been told that they are allowed to wear more clothes due to the dismal London weather. This is just scratching the surface of the sexism rampant in discussions of women’s Olympic sports, and women’s sports in general.

Regardless of the shape of their bodies, these women — Leisel Jones included — have earned their spots in the 2012 Olympic Games. This means that they are the best of the best that the world has to offer in terms of athletics. This should also earn them the respect that comes with this position, and the media should give these women a break about their bodies.

The sad fact of the matter is that, when it comes to women’s sports, sexism is still rampant. This is apparent even when the Olympics aren’t being held, but we are seeing it clearly this summer. As a society, we have a long way to go before sexism is a thing of the past, especially in the world of athletics. Women’s bodies are not open to public comment.

Public figures of all sorts have been dealing with this forever. Many say that, as public figures, these women open themselves up to scrutiny of all sorts, and that their personal lives are no longer personal. When it comes to body types, I disagree. The more we comment on the bodies of women, the more we are telling our little girls that they should be ashamed of themselves if they don’t fit the picture-perfect image of what society wants them to look like. I applaud these Olympic women athletes for being able to stand up for themselves — and compete — in spite of media criticism that has nothing to do with their physical ability.

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Photo Credit: Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer


Latonya W.
Latonya W.4 years ago

Its always something.....they complained about Gabbys hair....miserable people do things like COMPLAIN all the damn time.......

colleen p.
colleen p.4 years ago everyone attacks the athletes

Sam M.
Sam E M.4 years ago

I agree with Giana P.
Sexist attacks are cheap and anyone who resorts to them is just showing the whole world how little and despicable they are. All they deserve is contempt.

Olympic athletes have worked long and hard to earn the privilege of competing in the games. Even those who lose are better than the sorry person who has nothing better to write or say than a disobliging remark along the lines of the examples in the article above.

Sammstein M.
samantha M.4 years ago

i dont even give a shit about the olympics,but when the media was attacking her,it made me watch her race and cheer her on.
she wouldnt have been there if she wasnt fit enough (regardless of weight) or didnt earn her spot on the team... therfor i didnt see any reason that anyone should have been attacking her weight.

go Leisel

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Giana Peranio-paz

This is really disgusting! People have nothing to do but to try and make great people smaller so they can feel bigger!

Sarah W.
Sarah W.4 years ago

Herald Scum as we locals call it

Sheri P.
Sheri P.4 years ago

good grief!! she's a good swimmer! what difference does it make if some people don't think her physique is up to their unrealistic scrutiny?

Aimi Komori
Camelia Bruneski4 years ago

She gets nonsensical criticism for her body (which I'm sure is more than fine) and other athletes get death threats like the girl from Saudi Arabia. Different levels of the same burden.

Michael Wecke
Michael Wecke4 years ago

"Sexism" is a loaded word. In its best sense I don't find it a bad thing: You see some stunning male and female physiques, both of which I quite enjoy seeing. In its worst sense it is exhibited as it has been in the Australian and other media - downright loathsome. But then – and this is my personal reminder to me – most publications only have one objective…SALES! And then almost anything goes, the more controversial, loathsome and the more from the gutter, the better. Until of course they get caught, like in the Phone Hacking Scandal. Any such derogatory articles, news media, I dismiss as utterly contemptible. What they also show me is the mindset of the executives in charge. And yes, congratulations to Jones’ teammates on the Australian Olympic swimming team, as well as many former Olympic athletes, jumping to her defense. "Good on ya, mates"!