As I was getting ready to go swimming today ( a day off running!) I started thinking about the Aussie swimmer Leisel Jones who has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. She has been heavily criticised for her shape and size as she recently arrived into the UK to compete in the Olympic Games, and it is so wrong. There are even polls running asking – do you think Leisel Jones is physically prepared for the London Games, and questioning whether she should be competing because she doesn’t ‘look’ fit.
I am a runner, a plodder by all means – nowhere near professional or Olympic standard, but I have often found people looking at me when lining up for a race, and I’ve seen in their eyes that they are sizing me up against their tiny frame, thinking ‘well i’ll beat her – she’s not fit’. I don’t look like an athlete that’s for sure, and I don’t pretend to be a super fast runner, and I do like desserts and don’t always eat as healthily as I should, but in I believe in myself to be a good runner and I have to say that on a number of occasions I have sailed past those girls that looked me up and down in the line up.
Size has always been an issue in the ‘sports world’ and the recent attacks on Leisel Jones show the pressures that are on when at professional level. For some sports it is about size i.e. you wouldn’t see someone the build of a body builder running as an elite runner for an Olympic marathon, but we are all different shapes and sizes and the number of times I have run races and been passed by someone larger than me is very high. We all have different metabolic makeups, bone structure and muscle mass but it doesn’t mean we are not fit because we might be slightly heavier than our competitor. I am all too familiar with the world of eating disorders and it’s so wrong to put people in the spotlight because of their weight. It not only gives them a complex but also our children that are growing up believing that – that girl couldn’t possibly be an Olympic athlete because she doesn’t conform to the required shape.
All I have to say on that matter is that in my opinion everyone that runs, swims or whatever is an athlete. To train hard and to achieve, and to push to and through your athletic limits is awesome and a real achievement. And on the matter of Leisel – regardless of whether she wins her swimming race at the Olympics or not (i hope she does) – she is in a position that many dream about and she has worked hard to get there. So to all the critics out there – I’d love to see you try and do what she does. One good thing that has come out of this is that it has been awesome to see her team mates hitting out against the criticism and supporting her.