Jones in Search of World Championship Gold

By John Lohn

PHILADELPHIA, Penn., May 13. THE third installment of our ongoing World Championship Preview takes a look at Leisel Jones, one of the top female breaststrokers in the world.

Can Lethal Leisel Finally Win Major International Gold

She’s a world-record holder and has been tabbed as the favorite before. But, Leisel Jones is missing something from her resume: A gold medal at a major international competition, i.e. the Olympic Games or the World Championships.

Since 2000, Jones has been considered one of the globe’s premier breaststrokers. No one can argue that point. Still, to obtain unquestioned greatness, an athlete must deliver under the glaring spotlight, something Jones has yet to achieve.

In 2000, she walked away from the Sydney Olympics with a silver medal in the 100 breast. Meanwhile, last summer in Athens only produced silver in the 200 breast and bronze in the 100 breast. To compound matters, Jones was second in the 200 breast at the 2001 World Champs and took silver (200) and bronze (100) at the 2003 World Championships.

Have nerves been an issue? Maybe. Has the competition been sterling? Absolutely. Still, Jones should have broken through at some point. This summer, it’s going to happen. Look for Jones to be honored on the top step of the medal podium.

If Jones can swim close to her 100 breast world record of 1:06.37 during the World Champs in Montreal, it’s highly unlikely that anyone in the world will keep pace. Any slipup, however, could prove costly. Not only is China’s Luo Xuejuan the two-time defending champion, she’s also the reigning Olympic champ. Meanwhile, Australia’s Brooke Hanson and the United States’ Tara Kirk are capable of dipping under the 1:07 mark.

As for the 200 breast, Jones will be heavily favored. With Amanda Beard bypassing the World Champs, Jones could win this event without her finest performance. The former global-record holder in the event, Jones is likely to be pushed by only China’s Qi Hui.

The time has arrived for Leisel Jones to stand on top of the world.

NEXT WEEK: The intrigue surrounding the men’s breaststroke events.

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