Updated November 16 with statement from Leisel Jones
BRISBANE, Australia, November 15. IN a few hours, Leisel Jones will publicly announce her intention to retire from competitive swimming, ending a stellar career that made her internationally known for 12 years.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported earlier today that Jones will hold a press conference in Brisbane Friday morning in Australia, which is late afternoon/early evening today in North America.
Jones will leave the sport as one of the most respected athletes in history, starting her international competitive career at just 15 years old, swimming in the final of the 100 breaststroke at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. She won a silver medal in the event, adding another runner-up finish to her list in the 400 medley relay.
“I have a natural competitive drive and I think that will carry through into whatever I do after swimming,” said Jones.
“Of course swimming will always be a big part of my life but I am extremely proud of my achievements. To represent Australia at four Olympic Games is something that is very humbling and each one holds different memories and significance for me.
“I've basically grown up as a member of the Australian Swim Team, traveling the world competing, and I feel very honored to have had so many wonderful opportunities and so much fantastic support along the way.”
Jones would be seemingly plagued by a curse that prevented her from winning individual gold at the world championships or Olympic Games for the next five years. As the world record holder in the 100 breaststroke when the Athens Olympics began, she was the prohibitive favorite to win gold, but came up short, taking a bronze medal instead. She was also a near-lock for gold in the 200 breast, but was beaten to the finish by Amanda Beard.
Jones finally earned individual gold at a major international meet when she touched first in the 100 breast at the 2005 world championships. She had lost her world record, however, to Jessica Hardy, who had broken it in the semifinals.
After sweeping the 100 and 200 breaststrokes in 2005, Jones would do it again at the 2007 world championships in front of a home crowd in Melbourne. Once again, Jones was viewed as a lock to capture her first individual Olympic crown, and she succeeded in the 100 breaststroke, holding off an unheralded Rebecca Soni. But Soni got the better of Jones in the 200, where the Aussie settled for silver — and the loss of her last individual world record.
Jones did not retire officially in 2009, but decided to take a year off to refocus. She returned in 2010 and placed second behind Soni in the 100 and 200 breast at the Pan Pacific championships.
Despite a large crop of young breaststrokers aiming to claim her throne, Jones stayed in the sport for the 2012 Olympics, earning a spot on the roster in the 100 breast (Jones did not swim the 200 at the Olympic Trials.). She was unable to defend her Olympic title, but finished fifth in the final.
Jones retires at 27 years old with nine Olympic medals (three gold, five silver, one bronze). She is the only Australian swimmer, male or female, to compete in four Olympics.