By John Lohn
Photos by Peter H. Bick
MONTREAL, Canada, July 26. FINALLY, Leisel Jones located a gold medal in major international competition. A former world-record holder in the 100 and 200 breaststroke events, the Australian has been a key player on the international scene for some time. But, before Tuesday night, she had never won gold in Olympic or world championship action.
Dueling with the United States’ Jessica Hardy, Jones produced the second-fastest time in history, clocking 1:06.25, quicker than the 1:06.62 of Hardy. In the semifinals, Hardy set a world record of 1:06.20 and seemed positioned to win the gold. But, Jones came through with the finest race of her career and ridded her back of the proverbial monkey.
Hardy had the lead at the turn, going 31.07. But, coming down the final lap, Jones made her move and took a lead she would never relinquish. Hardy now owns the fastest two times by an American and she finished ahead of U.S. teammate Tara Kirk, who earned the bronze medal in 1:07.43. China’s Luo Xuejuan, the two-time defending champ, was fourth in 1:07.60.
Brooke Hanson, the Olympic silver medalist, was fifth in 1:08.07 and sixth went to South Africa’s Suzaan Van Biljon, thanks to a time of 1:08.38. Germany’s Sarah Poewe was seventh in 1:08.47 and Italy’s Chiara Boggiatto completed the field with an effort of 1:08.98.