Former Olympic gold medallist Leisel Jones has spoken out about the moment she was fat-shamed on the front cover of an Australian newspaper.
Speaking at the Nutra-Life luncheon in Sydney on Tuesday, the retired swimmer revealed how her physique was targeted just before the London Games in 2012.
At the time, the newspaper suggested the then-26-year-old was out of shape and questioned whether she could fit into her swimsuit as well as she did four years earlier at the Beijing Olympics.
The newspaper also included a poll asking readers if she was fit enough to compete.
‘I [was] called fat on the front page of a newspaper,’ the now-32-year-old recalled on Tuesday.
‘It was in 2012, there were questions over my head whether or not I was in a “fit enough” position to compete at the Olympic Games.’
Following the criticism about her body weight, the three-time Olympic gold medallist admitted she was struggling to cope with her insecurities.
‘To be called fat by a male journalist was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with,’ she said.
‘And to question yourself as an athlete and your self worth and if you’re good enough to be there was probably one of the hardest things.
‘I think you sort of get a bit of a resilience, probably a thick skin out of it. Probably a little bit too thick skin. I didn’t let anybody in.’
But five years since her retirement from professional sport, Jones said she has overcome her struggles with her body image.
‘Now that I’ve retired, I try and soften a little bit. I’ve tried to let people in and to trust people and I think that has been a huge learning curve for me,’ she said.
‘It’s been very challenging but it’s also about trusting myself and trusting my health. Health is wealth. Health is absolutely everything.’
Reflecting back to the 2012 story, Jones said she no longer feels emotional.
‘I just don’t care. I don’t care about my weight,’ she said.
‘But I care how I look. I just want to be healthy and to be happy. We just want to happy… We just want to feel good about ourselves.
‘We all want to be the best person that we possibly can be for everybody else. And that’s the most important thing.’
During her luncheon, Jones also revealed the extreme diet she did during the peak of her preparation for the Beijing Olympics 2008.
‘I did a soup diet. I was eating half a cup of cereal with watery milk for breakfast and apple for lunch and soup for dinner – six days a week,’ she said.
‘I do not encourage this. I was very silly and went way too far. We had a nutritionist obviously telling me not to do that, but that was the craziness I went to.’
During her TV stint on reality series I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! in 2015, Jones revealed she wanted to quit the London Games after the article about her weight emerged.
Sitting at the camp site, Jones told radio personality Chrissie Swan and model Laura Dundovic how distraught she felt after being called fat in the article.
‘I wanted to crawl under a rock and die,’ she said.