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Former Coach Takes Dig at Jones' Mental Toughness -- July 13, 2005

SYDNEY, Australia, July 13. LESS than two weeks before Leisel Jones will try to win her first individual gold medal in world-championship action, her former coach delivered some biting comments about the breaststroke sensation. Ken Wood, quoted in a story in The Mercury by Tom Wald, blasted the mental strength of his former pupil.

Jones changed her coaching affiliation late last year, moving from Wood to Stephan Widmer. The move followed a disappointing Olympic Games in which Jones failed to capture gold in either the 100 or 200 breaststroke events. Although a five-time Olympic medalist, Jones has not won an Olympic or world title on an individual basis and has been tagged as unable to deliver on the biggest stage.

Currently the coach of Jessica Schipper, an elite butterflyer, Wood brought Jones into the equation when he was asked to discuss Schipper’s mental toughness. Last year, Schipper qualified for the Olympics with the knowledge that her parents had already plunked down a significant amount of money on a trip to Athens, site of the Games.

“Boy you have to be mentally (tough),” Wood said of Schipper. “The other one I had, if that was the case there, bloody hell you would be in (the) hospital.”

Jones is the favorite for gold in the 100 and 200 breast events at the World Championships, scheduled to begin June 24 in Montreal. Not only is Jones the world-record holder in the 100 breast, the United States’ Amanda Beard is bypassing the competition and will not race the 200 distance. Beard is the reigning Olympic champ. Jones has been working on her mental toughness.

"I'm just working on my own race and I am looking forward to racing my own swim and not worrying about anyone else who is in the race,” she said. “That has been a big hurdle for me."