By Stephen J. Thomas
ATHENS, Greece August 15. WORLD record-holder Leisel Jones must be starting to think that she will never shift the monkey off her back that has seen her beaten by China's Luo Xuejuan on three occasional now at major meets – the World Champs in both Fukuoka (3rd behind Beard) and Barcelona (2nd) and now in Athens (3rd behind Hanson).
The stars really seemed aligned for Jones these past few months. She looks in great shape, her times have been very fast, recording a world-leading time in this event and a world record whilst in full training prior to this meet.
Tonight, when that gold medal was up for grabs, it was Luo whot stepped up, having only qualified seventh fastest. She powered down lane one, turning just under world record pace with American Tara Kirk second and Jones third as Amanda Beard and Aussie Brooke Hanson toiled three-tenths back tied for fourth place.
Luo was not going to be headed, as she brought home China’s first Olympic gold medal in eight years, lowering the Olympic record set by Jones in the semifinals to 1:06.64.
It was veteran Brooke Hanson who had the fastest second half in the field, getting to the wall for the silver just 0.01 of a second in front of the favorite Jones in 1:07.15.
Luo said of her performance, "I started very fast and kept the pace throughout the race. I focused on myself and didn't care about the others. I love swimming and hope to be back in my home country in 2008."
Jones said after her race,"I'm obviously not cut out for the gold medal just yet. Things happen for a reason and maybe I'm not deserving of it yet."
Hanson was understandably more enthusiastic at taking silver. "Four years ago I was going to retire; now I have a silver medal," she said.
Beard was fourth in 1:07.44 with Tara Kirk tiring to finish sixth in 1:07.59.
China’s Qi Hui was DQ’ed for a dolphin kick on the turn.
Women 100m Breaststroke Finals
Record Split Name NOC Location Date
WR 1:06.37 31.40
JONES Leisel AUS Barcelona (ESP) 21 JUL 2003
OR 1:06.78 31.74
JONES Leisel AUS Athens (GRE) 15 AUG 2004
Event No: 9
Rank Lane Name NOC R.T. 50m Time Time
1 1 LUO Xuejuan CHN 0.73 (1) 31.34 1:06.64
2 6 HANSON Brooke AUS 0.74 (=4) 31.92 1:07.15
3 4 JONES Leisel AUS 0.77 (3) 31.63 1:07.16
4 2 BEARD Amanda USA 0.73 (=4) 31.92 1:07.44
5 5 POEWE Sarah GER 0.71 (6) 31.98 1:07.53
6 3 KIRK Tara USA 0.72 (2) 31.47 1:07.59
7 7 BONDARENKO Svitlana UKR 0.83 (7) 32.56 1:08.19
8 QI Hui CHN 0.81 DSQ