Analysis: Women's 100m Breaststroke
Craig Lord
What a joy to see the turning of the cirle for a woman who at 14 had helicopters landing on her school lawn as the Aussie media cranked up for a super-talent who was going to take the world by storm

Beijing 2008:


  • 1. Leisel Jones (AUS) 1:05.17
  • 2. Rebecca Soni (USA) 1:06.73
  • 3. Mirna Jukic (AUT) 1:07.34
  • Fastest field: Beijing 2008: 1:05.17 - 1:08.43 (last place slower than in Athens 2008)


Comparison fields:


  • Melbourne 2007: 1:05.72 - 1:08.96
  • Athens 2004: 1:06.64 - 1:08.19 (7th, 8th was a DQ)


Facts going into the race:


  • World Record: 1:05.09 - Leisel Jones (AUS), Melbourne, 20.3.06 
  • Olympic champion: Luo Xuejuan (CHN) 1:06.64 
  • World champion: Jones 1:05.72


Impact of morning finals:

Half of the final swam slower in the final than they did in heats (not semis, but heats). In the case of Efimova, 1:06.08 European record in heats, the difference was huge - 1:07.43 in the final. But Jukic won a bronze medal swimming slower than she did in heats.

What it took to make semis:

  • Beijing 2008: 1:05.64 - 1:08.37
  • Melbourne 2007: 1:07.23 - 1:09.87
  • Athens 2004: 1:07.35 - 1:10.33

Notes from the race:

What a joy to see the turning of the cirle for a woman who at 14 had helicopters landing on her school lawn as the Aussie media cranked up for a super-talent who was going to take the world by storm. On paper she did. In racing, she won medals, none gold, and was the hammered for falling shy at Athens 2004. She responded by turning her life around "360 degrees". The training was one thing, and a very important one, of course, and the support of family and friends was critical to the alchemy of circumstance and hard work that followed Athens ("that's really important at times when its so hard, you're throwing up on the lawn", said Jones). In the Beijing race, Jones, well into a long season of dominance and having established world records that have left the rest of the world far behind, Jones coped with the nerves and gave us an awesome display of poise and technical brilliance on her way to a 30.63 split (no-one within half a second of her)  and a gold medal in 1:05.17, an Olympic record. "It's been a long journey, a long eight years," said Jones, coached by Rohan Taylor at the tale end of the success story. At 22, Jones is at her third Games.  "I was probably as low as you can possibly get after Athens," Jones recalled after coming in for some serious stick in the ewake of a bronze medal in the 100m. "As swimmers, we have once every four years a major competition and when you are told before that you are the best and you can't be beaten, and then you are beaten, it's devastating ... It was still fresh after Athens, I was still hurt and a little low. I was still searching for myself and finding my self-worth and learning to believe in myself. I learned so much there. In terms of personal experience and personal growth that was more important than this. To overcome the difficulties there, because I was still copping criticism and I was still learning ... that was the first time I enjoyed racing. I think I have gone from a naive 14-year-old to an under-pressure 18-year-old to a 22-year-old who's relieved." It showed and many a tear welled in the eyes of some of the hardest-bitten hacks in the room where she spoke so eloquently. 

Impact on all-time top 10:


  • 1:05.09 Jones AUS
  • 1:06.04 White AUS
  • 1:06.08 Efimova RUS BEIJING H
  • 1:06.20 Hardy USA
  • 1:06.34 Kierk USA
  • 1:06.52 Heyns RSA
  • 1:06.64 Luo Xuejuan CHN
  • 1:06.73 Soni USA BEIJING F
  • 1:07.03 Edmistone AUS
  • 1:07.05 Quann/Jendrick USA


All-time top 10, end 2007:


  • 1:05.09 Jones, Leisel (AUS) 2006
  • 1:06.20 Hardy, Jessica (USA)* 2005
  • 1:06.34 Kirk, Tara (USA) 2007
  • 1:06.52 Heyns, Penelope (RSA) 1999
  • 1:06.64 Luo, Xuejuan (CHN) 2004
  • 1:06.94 Soni, Rebecca (USA) 2007
  • 1:07.03 Edmistone, Jade (AUS) 2006
  • 1:07.05 Quann/Jendrick, Megan (USA) 2000
  • 1:07.15 Hanson, Brooke (AUS) 2004
  • 1:07.20 Stitts-Winfield, Staciana (USA) 
  • *- Hardy tested positive for clenbuterol at US Olympic trials, will not race in Beijing and awaits an appeal hearing at which she aims to have a two-year suspension reduced.



By winning, Leisel Jones drew Australia level with the USA and the GDR as most successful nations, on two gold medals apiece since the event was introduced in 1968. Australia has also won seven medals in the 11 finals, with the USA now second on six, courtesy of Rebecca Soni's silver. Mirna Jukic became the first Austrian woman to win a medal in the pool.Prozumenshikova (1968, 1972) and Heyns (1996, 2000) are the only two women to have reached the podium at two Games. Jukic also goes down as a rare example of a swimmer racing slower in a final that a heat but still picking up a medal, courtesy of the evening heats, morning finals format.

Fastest: 1:05.17, Leisel Jones (AUS) 2008 

World Record wins: Catherine Carr (USA), 1972.

Biggest margin: Hannelore Anke (GDR) walloped her rivals with a 1:11.16 win in 1976: she was 1.88sec ahead of Lyubov Rusanova (URS) at the first Games to witness the might of what turned out to be a steroid-fuelled East German team. In Beijing, Jones's win also stood out: 1.56sec ahead of Rebecca Soni (USA).

Closest shave: Djurdica Bjedov (YUG) kept Galina Prozumenshikova (URS) at bay by 0.1sec in 1968. In days when electronic timing ruled, Elena Rudovskaia (BLR) beat Anita Nall (USA) by 0.17sec in 1992.